Montana’s junior senator Friday applauded last week’s passage of health care reform and looked ahead to what he believes will be the next major issue in the U.S. Senate, financial oversight reform. Jon Tester, a Democrat from Big Sandy, said during a press conference that the health care reform bill and the subsequent reconciliation bill that passed will bring many benefits. “The law is a significant step forward, in my book,” he said, adding that the law will make many common- sense changes. “It is major reform. It is not radical reform,” Tester said. He said in an interview after the conference that he believes the next major issue the Senate will look at, probably shortly after it returns from its Easter recess, will be legislation to reform the government’s oversight Of the financial industry. Tester said a bill that passed from the Senate Banking Committee, on which he sits, will help make sure that the financial meltdown that happened in 2008 does not happen again. He added that he thinks this bill may find more bipartisan support than the nearly yearlong debate on health care reform. “I think there’s a desire to get the refs back on the street, and on Wall Street,” Tester said. The bill passed from the committee included an amendment sponsored by Tester which he said will help individual insurance agents and brokers from “being bogged down in red tape.” The bill would establish the Office of National Insurance to monitor insurance practices in states, although the states would still regulate insurance within their borders. Tester’s provision will exclude individual agents and brokers from having to report to the office. Tester also worked to provide assurances that community banks and credit unions are not tied up by new examination and enforcement rules. “I do not believe Montana’s community banks and credit unions caused the economic crisis, and I do not believe they should have to pay for the sins of Wall Street,” he said. While talking about the health care reform, Tester praised the work of Montana’s senior U.S. senator, Max Baucus. Baucus worked for some two years gathering information and then holding hearings in the Senate Finance Committee, which he chairs, to write a bill which comprised much of the final version passed by the Senate. Tester said Baucus worked tirelessly and deserves much of the credit for the passage of the bill. He said he had received many comments, by telephone, e-mail and in person while talking to Montana residents, about health care reform. The comments came from both sides, he said. “It ranges from soup to nuts depending on what part of the year it was,” Tester said. But one thing was common in the comments, he added. “What I did was listen to the folks … and looked at what we needed to do to fix a system that was broken,” Tester said. “Everyone knew it was broken.” He said he heard many misconceptions about the reform. “The biggest misconception, and there are plenty of them, is that this is government health care. It is not,” he said, adding that the biggest action of the bill is to make health care, and the actions of health insurance companies, more transparent and to create more competition. “It’s not government health care. That debate went away a year ago when the public option and a single payer plan went away,” Tester said. Tester said the reform will end up saving money, primarily in two ways. One is by reducing the number of hospital bills that go unpaid, forcing the people who pay in cash, or do have health insurance, as well as the federal taxpayer, to pick up the bill through higher health care costs. The other is a focus on wellness and prevention, he said. “If you can diagnose illnesses, diseases, earlier, it saves a lot of money later,” Tester said. The investment will provide significant returns, he added. “It is paid for. It does not add to the national debt, but you don’t get something for nothing back here,” Tester said.
Tester pleased with health care approval
Published: Monday, March 29th, 2010
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