The man who brought us electric deregulation now revamping Medicaid

Back in early 1997, before Sen. Fred Thomas (R-Stevensville) sponsored the bill that gave us electric deregulation, Montanans had stable, cheap electric power. After deregulation, our electric bills soared and major Montana industries had to lay off workers due to increased energy costs.

Thomas took a break from the legislature but is back in the state senate, again as majority leader, and is leading the charge on what to do if and when Congress repeals the Affordable Care Act. Also known as Obamacare, it allowed more than 61,000 uninsured Montanans to sign up for health care under Medicaid expansion and gave subsidies to tens of thousands of others in our state.

The Associated Press has the story. Apparently, there will be a panel set up of lawmakers and health care professionals to deal with the fallout. Here’s a quote from Thomas:

“It gives us the ability to re-approach this and redo it like it ought to be done,” Thomas said of the pending repeal. “That may be the best thing that comes out of Obamacare.”

And this is his fix for the poor saps who will lose their insurance:

Thomas said his concept of an Obamacare replacement is to have a broad-based insurance plan that covers major medical incidents and would replace Medicaid expansion and the federal exchange.

It includes eliminating the individual mandate requiring individuals to be insured, and tax penalties for those who don’t comply. Instead, those who forego coverage will have to pay higher rates initially when they do seek insurance, Thomas said.

So who’s funding this “broad-based insurance plan?” The already budget-constrained state or already cash-strapped individuals? And those folks who get kicked off Medicaid and can’t afford insurance “will have to pay higher rates initially when they do seek insurance?” How in the hell are they going to do that?

So many questions; so few answers.

Obamacare, just like our old, pre-1997 regulated utilities, isn’t perfect. But from what I’ve seen so far, the cure is going to be far worse than the disease, thanks again to Sen. Thomas and his Republican Party.

FRED THOMAS UPDATE: Although not related to his health care or energy proposals, Thomas did weigh in on Gov. Steve Bullock and the budget, blaming the governor for not anticipating shortfalls.

Sen. Dick Barrett (D-Missoula) commented on his Facebook page about Thomas’ accusation, “Sen. Thomas is apparently forgetting he was the guy presiding over the 2015 committee that estimated how much money we had to spend.”


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About the author

Pete Talbot

'Papa’ Pete Talbot is first and foremost a grandfather to five wonderful grandchildren. Like many Montanans, he has held numerous jobs over the years: film and video producer, a partner in a marketing and advertising firm, a builder and a property manager. He’s served on local and statewide Democratic Party boards. Pete has also been blogging at various sites for over a decade. Ping-pong and skiing are his favorite diversions. He enjoys bourbon.


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  • Governor’s staff should provide realistic estimate for the public and Mr. Thomas about HOW MANY MONTANANS WILL DIE WHEN THROWN OFF HEALTHCARE, it’s the THOMAS DEATH PANEL!

  • Sen. Fred Thomas blames Bullock when it’s his side that has been “Brownbacking” our state for the last few years!? The MTGOP has put us in their Koch Agenda race to the bottom and now they want to double down on it. They must be stopped before Montana is gutted like Kansas, Michigan, New Jersey, Louisiana, Wisconsin and all the other Koch Agenda states.

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