MT GOP’ers want straight repeal of ‘Obamacare’; Tester, Bullock preach bipartisan fix

HELENA – As U.S. Senate Republicans’ latest plan to repeal and replace “Obamacare” crashed and burned, two of the state’s top GOP officeholders said Tuesday they support a straight repeal of the health-care law – with a delayed effective date.

Both U.S. Sen. Steve Daines and state Auditor Matt Rosendale, whose office regulates insurance, told MTN News that the Affordable Care Act should simply be repealed, without a replacement.

The repeal can be delayed for two years while Congress works on a replacement, they said.

“I think ultimately we have got to have (health) insurance regulation turned back over to the states,” Rosendale said in an interview. “The federal government is finally starting to recognize that by providing oversight at that level … doesn’t function properly, because each of the states are so dramatically different.”

Daines also said he’s concerned about the cost of the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, which he said is “blowing the (state) budget.”

“It’s a fiscal train-wreck,” he said. “We are on an unsustainable fiscal path in Montana.”

Yet while Daines and Rosendale called for a straight repeal of the ACA, or “Obamacare,” that approach could be a political dead-end as well.

Three Republican U.S. senators said Tuesday they oppose a repeal without a replacement, leaving Republicans without the needed 50 votes to pass a bill.

Montana’s newest member of Congress, Republican U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte, said in a statement Tuesday that he wants the Senate to “move swiftly to provide Montanans with relief by repealing and replacing Obamacare,” but didn’t indicate whether he favors repeal now, replace later.

The state’s top two Democratic officeholders – U.S. Sen. Jon Tester and Gov. Steve Bullock – said Tuesday that repealing the ACA is a bad idea, and called for bipartisan cooperation to fix the law’s flaws.

Tester, in a statement, called repeal “a disgusting attempt by Washington politicians to play politics with Montanans’ lives by jacking up health-care costs, kicking folks off their plans and shutting down rural hospitals, with no plan to increase access to health care or lower costs.”

Bullock said lawmakers in Washington, D.C., should “step back, take a breath and move forward together” to shore up the private health-insurance market.

He also said that he’s happy to work on improving Medicaid, the state-federal program that pays medical bills for the poor, but that “gutting Medicaid” is not the answer – and that all of the previous GOP proposals did just that.