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Montana US House candidates weigh in on healthcare

This is the first part of a two-part series looking at how Montana’s US House and US Senate candidates view health care.

HELENA – In the campaigns for US House and US Senate this year in Montana one of the biggest issues on the minds of voters is health care.

MTN News Chief Political Reporter Mike Dennison takes a look at how the major Montana US House candidates differ on this key issue in the first part of our two-part series.

Republican Congressman Greg Gianforte says his party has made progress on health care, by repealing the federal mandate that individuals must buy health coverage – and getting rid of other insurance regulations.

“I believe we should be moving to more options for consumers, peeling back this Obamacarethat’s driven premiums up and benefits down. One-size-fits-all government-run health care is not going to get where we need to be,” Rep. Gianforte said.

Those choices include “association plans,” which allow businesses to pool their coverage for employees – and more use of consumer health-savings accounts.

He also says a proposal by some Democrats to have “Medicare-for-all” will bankrupt the country.

But that’s not what his Democratic challenger, Kathleen Williams is proposing. She wants to let people 55 and older buy into Medicare coverage – at no additional cost to the government.

“This would not require a tax increase to cover because people would be paying their way, and it’s about free choice,” Williams said.

She also says putting more of that age group into Medicare would help stabilize the individual market for health insurance – which, she agrees, is much too expensive for some people.

However, she opposes repealing Obamacare – saying it protects people with pre-existing health conditions and helps low- and middle-income people afford health coverage.

“This piecemeal way of doing it is creating both uncertainty — and there’s a projection that tens of thousands of Montanans would lose their health care,” Williams said. “So, I very much differ with him on that. I think that we need to fix the system, not just pick it apart, bone by bone.”

Williams also wants to allow the federal government to negotiate directly with drug manufacturers, to get prices down when it comes to the issue of prescription drugs.

Rep. Gianforte has called for more “transparency” in pricing but hasn’t outline any specific reforms.

Meanwhile, Libertarian Elinor Swanson says existing programs like Medicare, must be made financially sound, rather than have more items added to them.

There are clear differences between the two major candidates.

The same can be said about the US Senate candidates who we’ll cover in the second part of our series.

-Mike Dennison reporting for MTN News

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