Attorney general candidate Graybill talks about health care issues
Last updated 2/18/2020 at 11:34am
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock's chief legal counsel Raph Graybill of Helena, who is running as a Democratic candidate in the state attorney general race, spoke in Havre Saturday alongside state Rep. Shane Morigeau, D-Missoula, who is running for state auditor.
"The attorney general's job is really a check on power," Graybill said during an interview. "It's a check on runaway government power and it's a check on runaway private economic power. And when you get that impulse that we've all felt, when you know you're getting nickeled and dimed and you know that your choices are being taken away from you - it's the same impulse - that's where the attorney general should be working, and health care is the perfect example of that."
Republican Montana Attorney General Tim Fox, who cannot run for re-election due to term limits, has filed as a candidate for governor, and since he announced his candidacy a number of candidates have filed for the vacant attorney general seat.
Graybill faces state Rep. Kim Dudik, D-Missoula, in the Democratic primary.
Graybill said Morigeau was campaigning with him Saturday and this week he would campaign with Democratic superintendent of public instruction candidate Melissa Romano.
He said he enjoys campaigning alongside other candidates because it is a good way to get people excited about the races outside of the governor's race and the Congressional races.
"It's a good way to really showcase how important these races are," Graybill said. "The governor's race, the Senate race naturally get attention, but a race like ours, in my view, they are really important to people's everyday lives."
Another benefit to campaigning with other candidates is that the candidates get to hear the same issues people have and concerns they have for the state, he said, for example, Saturday they heard a number of people who are concerned with health care and prescription drug prices.
He added that having the attorney general and the state auditor working together on the issue allows them to work on it from two different sides. Discussing prescription drug prices, the state auditor can affect the cost of medications and the coverage of medications from insurance companies, Graybill said. He added that while the state auditor works on the issue from that side, the attorney general's office can take pharmaceutical companies to court and hold them accountable to the prices they are changing for health care.
"People are particularly concerned about their ability to get health care," he said. "They want and the health care they need to live and survive, and people are really concerned about prescription drug prices. People are really concerned whether changes in national politics is going to affect whether they can still have their insurance. I think that's number one on everybody's mind."
He added that everyone at one point in time has an encounter with the health care system, and although people want to receive health care and trust their local doctors, they still need to figure out how to pay the bills. People are not satisfied with the decisions of Congress and cannot depend on Congress to fight for their rights, so it is up to the state to protect the people, he said.
Many attorney generals have an entire section of their office devoted to health care and health care prices, he said, adding that he would like to see something similar in Montana's attorney general's office.
"We don't have that in Montana. As attorney general, I would make it a huge commitment to make sure there is fair and efficient competition in the health care market and that people are not getting price gouged," Graybill said.
He added that what is interesting about the attorney general's office is that the job doesn't need to make any more laws or regulations. Montana already has strong consumer protection laws and has a strong constitution protecting the people in the state, he said.
"But they don't mean anything unless you've got someone willing to pick the fights to allow and enforce them, willing to haul Big Pharma into court, willing to haul health care companies that collude and raise prices into court. That's what the attorney general can do," Graybill said. "You don't need to have ask the Legislature for permission. Those laws are there now, we just have to make them work."
He added that how medical billing is set up is made purposely confusing to charge people the most as possible. He said that he and his wife recently had their first daughter, and even with good health insurance, they still spent a large amount of money for the medical bills.
Montana is a beautiful state and the government should work to protect the people and the state, he said.
"I hope that we can protect and preserve this state that has been so good to us in its natural character," Graybill said.
He added that he hopes, moving forward, the state continues to support high-quality education and work to improve the lives of its people.
"I hope that politics can heal and that this national corrosive politics of tearing each other down doesn't become the norm in our state," he said.
He added that this is his fourth trip to Havre and understands the importance of the area. He said he grew up in Great Falls and this part of the state and rural Montana is critically important, not just places like Missoula, Helena and Bozeman.