Eye on Healthcare

Nov 16, 2013 4:40 PM by Sanjay Talwani - MTN News

Daines rips Obamacare backtrack

HELENA - Thursday's announcement by President Barack Obama delaying the cancellation of millions of health plans that are not compliant with the Affordable Care Act drew quick criticism from U.S. Representative Steve Daines (R-MT), who called the move "a short-term, politically-driven patch" and vowed to continue fighting to repeal Obamacare.

Daines said on the House floor on Thursday, "Today's announcement does very little to resolve the President's broken promise or provide hard-working Montana families with much-needed relief and protection from the President's failed health care law."

"Over the past month, I've heard from hundreds of Montanans who are looking for relief from the consequences of President Obama's health care law, and unfortunately, today's proposal isn't a long-term fix, nor does it address the core problems with this failed law," he countued.

The move had Montana's insurers and top insurance regulator scrambling to make sense of the move's consequences.

Montana Commissioner of Securities and Insurance Monica Lindeen said Thursday the delay in moving people off the non-compliant plans could "bifurcate" the health insurance risk pool, leading to higher costs for some consumers.

Montana's Democratic U.S. senators showed less alarm Friday, saying it was important that the troubled federal website (healthcare.gov) linking people with individual plans get fixed.

Asked Friday for their reaction to Obama's Thursday announcement, neither Max Baucus, a major architect of the law, nor Jon Tester directly addressed how Thursday's change might affect the rest of the marketplace or the continued implementation of the law.

Here's Baucus' statement:

"The number one goal of the Affordable Care Act is to make life better for the people we serve, so we can't forget why these consumer protections are needed in the first place. No one wants to go back to the days when people could be kicked off their insurance plans, see their rates skyrocket when they got sick, or be denied coverage altogether. I'm confident many Montanans will find they get better coverage for their money under the new consumer protections in the marketplaces. That's why we need to get the website working for the people who need it. And I will continue to hold the Administration's feet to the fire until every American can log on and get the tax credits and coverage they need."

Here's Tester's statement:

"Fixing the website is key to improving the law, and I remain hopeful that when folks can finally see their coverage options for better health insurance, they will get the affordable health care they need."

Governor Steve Bullock (D-MT), who has little direct oversight over the implementation of the law, said "a lot of things need to be sorted out" about the announcement.

Bullock also looked at what Montana might have done to be in a better spot today in the implementation of the law.

"Not to point fingers," he said, but the Montana Legislature did not expand Medicaid in the state as allowed under Obamacare, nor did it elect to create its own state health insurance exchange, instead leaving Montana consumers of individual plans to find their way through the federal marketplace.

But Bullock said he had no immediate plans to revisit the question of Medicaid expansion.

"I continue to speak to legislators and to people in the community," he said Friday. "But I don't have any plans to be calling a (special legislative) session any time real soon."

He said there was no sense in calling a session "until and unless that (legislative) leadership is ready to make sure we cover 70,000 more Montanans, create 5,000 new jobs and start reforming our health care system."

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