Montana’s U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg has sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius after her visit to Montana expressing some concerns he has heard Montanans raise about the health care reform passed by Congress this year.
Rehberg voted against the reform bill.
“I wish the authors of Obamacare had taken the time to listen to Montanans before they passed it instead of after, but I’m glad that they’re finally willing to hear what the folks I’ve been hearing from for years have to say,” Rehberg said in a press release announcing he had written a letter to Sebelius. “Americans still need health care reform that addresses costs and access, and unfortunately, the bill that passed addresses neither for rural states like Montana. At this point, the easiest solution is to start from scratch.”
In July, Rehberg signed on as a cosponsor to bills proposed in March to repeal the health care reform bill and in May to replace it with a proposed alternative reform.
Sebelius and U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., faced numerous complaints about the reform bill at a meeting in Libby, despite increased Medicare coverage for people in the community dealing with problems from asbestos pollution there.
About 400 Libby residents have signed up for the coverage, The Associated Press reports.
But many residents at the meeting complained about issues such as being required to have health care, while others praised the new Medicare coverage.
A release from the White House this week discussed changes provided through the reform. Some of the highlights for Montana included 1,907 senior citizens in the state receiving a $250 tax-free rebate to help cover the doughnut hole of Medicare Part D coverage and being able to receive preventative services such as cancer screenings and annual wellness visits without copayments, coinsurance or deductibles.
“Americans want to know how health insurance reform affects their communities,” Sebelius said in the release. “Since President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law, we have been working closely with states on implementation — and the immediate benefits of this historic legislation are beginning to take effect.”
The release said $15.8 million became available to Montanans July 1 for uninsured residents with pre-existing conditions through the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Program.
It also provides tax credits to as many as 26,000 small businesses in Montana to make it easier to provide insurance for employees and potentially reduce premium costs, the release said.
The program also allows young adults to remain on their parents’ insurance plans if they desire through age 26, and a $5 billion temporary early retiree program will help companies continue to provide insurance for people who retire before being eligible for Medicare.
It also provides the option for federal Medicaid funding to cover all low-income residents of the state regardless of age, family or disability status.
The act's Patient Bill of Rights strengthens protections for Montanans, the release said, such as barring insurance companies from placing lifetime limits on coverage and tighting regulations of annual limits and restrictions on dropping or excluding people from coverage.
In his letter to Sebelius, Rehberg said business owners are worried about a mandate to provide insurance, new taxes on certain accounts, increases in insurance premiums and increased paperwork. Employers have stopped hiring or are reducing their workforce because of the changes, he said.
“In short, these burdensome obligations impact job creation,” Rehberg wrote.
Cuts in Medicare are raising concerns that many doctors will stop accepting it, he wrote. In a state like Montana, where patients often have to travel for hours to see a doctor, it may be impossible for some people to find an alternative, Rehberg wrote.
He wrote that many constituents have expressed opposition to the mandate that individuals obtain insurance coverage.
He is concerned about an increase in the estimated cost of the new high-risk pool program, and that it raises concerns for him about the accuracy of projections in the cost of permanent programs created through the reform.
“Unfortunately, the unpopularity of Obamacare is only a symptom of the serious deficiencies in the bill itself,” Rehberg said in his release. “Far from fixing the problems we face, this job-killing bill makes things worse by hamstringing the economy and targeting small businesses for increased regulation and expenses.”