June 29--Rick Hill, Republican candidate for governor, denounced the federal health care law as bad, unaffordable legislation, while his Democratic opponent, Attorney General Steve Bullock, highlighted what he called several good changes in the act.
Their comments came Thursday after the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling, upheld the Affordable Care Act.
"Obamacare is not the solution to our health care problems," Hill said. "It's bad legislation that Montanans don't want and can't afford. It does not address the principal problem, which is the rising cost of health care."
Hill quoted Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer, who previously said the mandates in the federal law could bankrupt Montana. It places an "unaffordable burden on Montana taxpayers," said Hill, a former congressman.
Bullock, however, said the current health care system doesn't work. People without insurance go to emergency rooms, where costs are the highest, for their health care rather than family doctors. Every Montanan pays more for health care as a result, he said.
"There are some good things that health reform has brought about," Bullock said. "We should never go back to a day where insurance executives can refuse to cover Montanans because of pre-existing conditions, kick a family off of insurance when they need it the most because they have hit an arbitrary cap or refuse to let young adults stay on their parents' plan."
Bullock said the court decision "doesn't change the fact that small businesses and families pay too much and get too little from our health care system."
To create jobs here, Bullock said, "we must find ways to reduce the cost of health care delivery."
Hill called the Affordable Care Act "a huge tax increase on individuals and small businesses."
"It's going to dramatically increase the cost of employer-sponsored health plans, and it threatens Montana seniors by undermining Medicare solvency to the tune of $500 billion," Hill said.
If elected governor, Hill said he would do whatever he could to protect Montanans from the "adverse consequences" of the law.
"I will continue to advocate for Montana-made reforms that address cost, improve quality and increase access -- and continue my commitment to fighting out-of-touch federal mandates that will burden Montana families and small businesses," he said.
Hill's campaign manager, Brock Lowrance, criticized Bullock for not standing up for Montanans to fight the law by joining a friend-of-the-court brief filed by some attorneys general opposing the law.
Bullock countered that that would have wasted time and money. "As I have said all along, adding Montana to the list of states wouldn't have done anything but cost Montana taxpayers money."
Kevin O'Brien, Bullock's campaign manager, criticized Hill.
"For small businesses to create jobs, the next governor must find ways to reduce the cost of health care delivery -- and by any measure, that's not Congressman Hill," O'Brien said.
He said Hill had voted in Congress to cut billions from Medicare.
"As a lobbyist and insurance executive, he made millions by denying coverage and raising premiums on all policyholders -- in some cases as much as 35 percent," O'Brien said.
In response, Hill said his surety insurance business didn't sell health insurance.
Hill, who served on the board of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana, called O'Brien's comments "absurd."
"Every director on that board was trying every day to identify ways to cut costs, and we did," Hill said. "Blue Cross cut costs dramatically in my tenure."
(c)2012 Independent Record (Helena, Mont.)
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