Matt Rosendale Even Voted Against Kids with Down Syndrome, For Insurance Companies

UNITED STATES - August 29: Matt Rosendale (R) Montana during an interview at Roll Call in Washington, D.C. (Photo By Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)

As a state senator, Matt Rosendale cast a lot of heartless, terrible votes. We’ve written in the past about his votes against firefighters, veterans, and victims of sex trafficking, but even I was surprised today when I learned that Rosendale voted against kids with Down Syndrome.

Back in 2015, Missoula’s Ellie Boldman Hill introduced HB 318, which required insurers to cover children affected by the genetic disorder. The bill, which passed both houses of the Legislature and which was signed into law by Governor Bullock, was hailed by advocates as critical to ensure that families would get the coverage necessary to help them provide care for their children.

During testimony before the Legislature that session, advocates from the Montana Down Syndrome Association, the Montana Association for Community Disability Services, Disability Rights Montana and other groups testified that the early intervention the bill would mandate insurers cover was essential for helping these children develop language skills, educational attainment, and long-term success in adult life.

Parents who spoke on behalf of their children identified gaps in coverage that made it almost impossible to get children medically necessary speech therapy early enough to make a real difference.

Proponents also noted that the bill made solid fiscal sense as the state and schools absorbed much of the cost born by the failure of insurers to adequately protect families. Additionally, the early intervention serves both the economic needs of individuals with Down Syndrome in terms of employment opportunities and the economic gains for the state in terms of their productivity.

No one spoke against the bill in the Senate committee hearing, but one person did in the House committee: Bruce Spencer, a lobbyist representing insurance companies. Despite his testimony, the House Human Services Committee, including Art Wittich, voted 17-0 in favor of the bill.

So, presented with a bill that would help ensure improved quality of life for children with Down syndrome, improve their job prospects, and save the state of Montana money, what led pro-life Matt Rosendale to vote against children?

The profits of insurance companies, whose lobbyists worked behind the scenes to weaken the bill and then kill it.

Rosendale, who, as State Auditor, has refused to hold hearings on health insurance rate increases, advocated for denying coverage for preëxisting conditions, chosen to turn over the operations of the State Auditor’s office to a former insurance industry lobbyists, and raised tens of thousands of dollars from the very insurance companies he is supposed to regulate, voted that it was more important to save insurers a few bucks than it was to make sure that children with Down Syndrome have more fulfilling, happier, and more productive lives.

Rosendale makes no secret of his absolutist position on reproductive rights, claiming that he opposes abortion access in all circumstances, even when the life of the mother is endangered by the pregnancy. This vote, though, demonstrates that his commitment to life doesn’t extend to the lives of children and families who rightly wanted their insurance companies to pay for medically necessary treatment designed to improve quality of life.

Matt Rosendale’s dogmatic opposition to government spending isn’t principled opposition to government spending; it’s the selfish ideology of someone who believes that corporate and personal profit matter more than our children, our first responders, our veterans, and our communities.

Someone whose priorities are so out of line with those of ordinary Montanans that he can’t see that children matter more than insurance companies cannot be trusted to protect us as State Auditor and certainly can’t be trusted to represent all us in Washington.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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