Montana’s senior U.S. senator said in a press conference Thursday that the health care reform act is not perfect, but it is helping people and is a major improvement over what was in place.
“We had a rocky rollout back in October but it’s moving forward and people are signing up,” said Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont ., adding that includes signing up himself.
“I continue to believe this is a step forward as far as people being able to afford getting sick,” he said. “Whether you’ve got pre-existing conditions or you don’t have a lot of cash lying around, this program is going to help.”
He added that he hears people saying the country should go back to what was in place before the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed, or that they have options that would work better.
“But the truth is, I haven’t seen anything to back any of that up except going back to the old system, and going back to the old system is not an option, as far as I’m concerned,” Tester said.
He said he and newly appointed Sen. John Walsh, D-Mont ., are working to keep a sales tax on online purchases from impacting Montanans, who have repeatedly shown they don’t want a sales tax.
Other states have not been able to balance their budgets even with a sales tax, which Montana has done without a sales tax, Tester said.
“Now (those states) want to reach into our pockets to pay their bills,” he said.
Rep. Steve Daines, R-Mont. — one of Walsh’s opponents in the 2014 Senate election — also is fighting in the House against that tax.
Tester said he and Walsh also are working to extend energy production tax credits, both for traditional energy sources and for renewable energy.
That will help make the country more energy secure and give Montana energy companies a leg up, he said.
“These tax credits will give Montana’s renewable energy sector a chance to compete in the global economy and create jobs right here in Montana,” Tester said.
He said he and other senators also are working to extend long-term unemployment benefits, which will help people who are actively looking for work and also help the economy, he said.
He also commented on trying to add funding to the president’s budget on tribal affairs, which also covers issues he said he discussed with Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell while she toured Montana with him.
Tester, chair of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, said the top three priorities in Indian Country are law enforcement, water settlements and Indian Health Services.
“If I was going to put my top three, those probably would be the top three, but the list is much longer than that,”’ he said.