Sen. Steve Daines Plans Tele-Town Hall on Health Care Bill

Montana’s Republican U.S. senator, Steve Daines, says he’ll decide whether to support his party’s health care bill after hearing from constituents.

The Billings Gazette reported Saturday ( ) that Daines will host a telephone town hall next Wednesday on the Senate Republican proposal.

At least five GOP senators have declared their opposition to the party’s legislation to undo much of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul — more than enough to defeat the measure.

Daines criticized the U.S. House GOP’s health care proposal after the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reported that 14 million Americans would lose their coverage next year under the proposal.

“What Montanans have told me they want to see, first and foremost, is a reduction in premiums, the affordability question,” Daines told the Gazette.

“Number two, taking care of those with pre-existing conditions, that they have access to care and affordable care. And number three, very important for Montana is, we are one of the Medicaid expansion states, is that we save Medicaid and protect Medicaid.”

Besides the five Republican senators who’ve announced outright opposition, several other GOP senators — conservatives and moderates — have declined to commit to the proposed overhaul.

The measure resembles legislation the House approved in May that the Congressional Budget Office said would mean 23 million additional uninsured people within a decade and that recent polling shows is viewed favorably by only around 1 in 4 Americans.

In March, The Associated Press reported that Montana would have to spend an extra $126 million a year to continue its Medicaid expansion program under proposed legislation to replace the federal Affordable Care Act. That estimate was provided by Gov. Steve Bullock’s budget office.

Bullock’s budget office estimated that 34,000 people now covered by Medicaid would lose their coverage over the next decade. Others who signed up for private health insurance through the Affordable Care Act would see costs increase by thousands of dollars, the office said.

The federal-state program provides health care to the poor, disabled and many nursing home patients.

Democratic Sen. Jon Tester has said the Senate bill would “rip away Medicaid from thousands of Montanans.”

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