Sen. Steve Daines was so far out of his depth it could have been amusing, except the subject was health care.
Republicans must have done some polling to find out—surprise!—health care is an important issue. So, Daines held a “tele-townhall meeting” last night to promote Medicare open enrollment. Even the pre-screened callers and staff-prepared white papers couldn’t save him from his bumbling, disjointed responses.
I got the call at 6:15 p.m.—15 minutes into the “tele-townhall”—as I was chopping vegetables for dinner. I was told to push *3 if I had a question to ask. I did so about a dozen times but to no avail.
One would think the supposed safe callers from Hysham, Hungry Horse and Plentywood would cut Daines some slack.
They’re paying $1600 a month out-of-pocket for diabetes drugs or $22,000 a year for cancer meds. Callers complained about the ever increasing amounts for Medicare being deducted from their Social Security checks. They say costs for various supplemental plans keep going up-and-up. They’re hurting.
Daines had a man and a woman on the line from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to help answer questions. When flustered, which was more often than not, Daines would refer someone calling in to one of them. The CMS representatives would then basically offer a phone number to call, saying they would follow up.
A caller from Livingston asked why he can get his prescriptions from overseas at a fraction of the cost. Daines was tongue-tied and would frequently mention a bipartisan bill in Congress, S-1895, as a solution. (Quick fact: while serving on the Senate Finance Committee, he voted for amendments to the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act that would have removed two of the most important provisions in the bill. The PDPRA has been incorporated into of S-1895.)
One caller even had the audacity to mention a public option or something similar to the health care systems in Canada and Europe. Daines quickly shifted, again, to bipartisan S-1895 and how he was considered one of the most bipartisan members of the Senate. (A quick google of bipartisan congressional rankings failed to include his name.)
The “tele-townhall” ended at 6:50 p.m. which appears to be ten minutes earlier than usual for Daines’ townhalls. He closed with a trivial comment on this weekend’s Cat-Griz game.
As mentioned earlier, Republicans are feeling some heat on health care issues. And what a coincidence, just three days earlier, in my mailbox, is a flyer from Rep. Greg Gianforte reminding me that it’s open enrollment for Medicare.
As to a comprehensive plan for access to affordable prescription drugs and health care for all? They got nothin’.