On health care, someone needs to throw Sen. Daines a lifeline

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.

Not so.

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.

That’s the Montana delegation’s (at least the two Republicans in Congress) answer to our country’s health care woes: to remind folks that it’s the Medicare enrollment period.

As to a comprehensive plan for access to affordable prescription drugs and health care for all? They got nothin’.         

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

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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  • Thanks Obama Care. And health care was the big push by the Dems in 2018 and they took the house with nothing done except impeach. What happened to the USMCA agreement to help our farmers and new immigration laws? So Medicare for all 2020?

  • On Monday, my wife mentioned that she received notice of Daines’s “tele-town hall” at 10 a.m. for the 6 p.m. event. Granted, she would never participate, but why give such short notice? I’ll tell you why: Daines fears facing the electorate, so he manipulates his “citizen outreach” to include very few people – the few supporters that will fawn over him and lob him softball questions, if any. Let’s vote this (as my mother would say) “nincompoop” out of office. As for Mark’s comments, I’m trying to understand what he’s futilely trying to say.

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