Sheehy attacks health care law that provides coverage for tens of thousands of Montanans - TAI News
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Montana Republican U.S. Senate candidate Tim Sheehy falsely claimed in an April candidate questionnaire that the Affordable Care Act is responsible for high premiums and suggested that he would like to see it replaced with a system of unregulated health insurance companies. Repeal of the 2010 law would likely mean higher health care costs and leave tens of thousands of Montanans without health insurance coverage.

Sheehy, a wealthy corporate executive, is the front-runner in the June 4 Republican primary. The winner will face incumbent Democratic Sen. Jon Tester. 

In response to questions from the Montana Free Press for its 2024 election guide, Sheehy said: “More government control of our health care has only made things worse. We must increase access and lower costs. Like most Montanans, I believe we need to promote greater transparency, competition and shopping for services in our health care system. As someone who was wounded in battle and has had to deal with the VA, I know firsthand we should be rewarding outcomes and innovation, improving access to care in our rural communities, and most importantly, protecting Montanans with pre-existing conditions.”

The issues page on his campaign website includes similar language, criticizing the Affordable Care Act, proposing an unspecified new system that will protect people with preexisting conditions, and calling for “transparency, competition, and shopping for services.” 

A Sheehy spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this story. Last August, however, Sheehy was recorded telling attendees at an event: “Our hospitals have been built around federal health care subsidies. So in my opinion, we need to return health care to pure privatization.” In the audio, posted online by Semafor, Sheehy claimed that the system worked before health insurance, when people just paid for medical care out of pocket.

The Affordable Care Act was enacted to reduce the number of Americans without health insurance. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 40 million people had insurance coverage in early 2023 through the law. 

In Montana, provisions in the law that expanded access to Medicaid allowed more than 117,000 additional individuals to get coverage through that program, according to a 2023 Kaiser Family Foundation analysis. Another 66,000 people in the state had purchased affordable private plans through the law’s insurance exchange as of early 2024. The law also allows young adults to stay on their family’s insurance plans until age 26.

Other provisions in the law required that insurance plans include free annual physicals, no-cost vaccines, and benefits for prescription drugs, saving patients money. It also requires that insurers partially refund premiums if they won’t spend an average of at least 80% of that money on medical care. 

While health care costs have gone up since the law went into effect in 2010, they have grown at a slower rate over that time than in the previous decade. 

“Tim Sheehy’s pure privatization plan would be catastrophic for Montana’s seniors, families, and rural communities,” Hannah Rehm, a senior communications adviser for the Montana Democratic Party, told the Montana Independent. “While Sheehy is dead set on stripping lifesaving health care from hardworking Montanans, Jon Tester has worked tirelessly to lower prescription drug costs, expand health care access for rural Montanans, and protect Medicare for seniors.”

Tester voted for the 2010 law and for the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, which capped annual out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs for Medicare Part D enrollees and authorized the government to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies for drug lower prices.

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The Montana Independent is a project of American Independent Media, a 501(c)(4) organization whose mission is to use journalism to educate the public, giving them the information they need about local and federal issues.