HELENA – An organization that promotes limited government joined with a group of doctors on July 31 and announced a coalition to oppose the oncoming Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, saying it would be costly and not deliver on promises.
Americans for Prosperity and the Montana Medical Free Choice Coalition held a news conference on the steps of the state Capitol in Helena, an event that organizers said was attended by about 30 people. A few signs, such as “Obamacare ... Just say no” and “Give us Liberty, not mandated health care!” peppered the area.
According to a news release, the MMFCC opposes government-run health care, the president’s health care law, commonly called “Obamacare,” and supports “market-based and patient-centered reform.”
Joe Balyeat, the state director for AFP and former state lawmaker, said Obamacare would create “a whole new class of serfs in Montana.”
“People with incomes all the way up to $92,200 will have a portion of their insurance paid by the feds,” he said, adding it would put the majority the state’s residents on “the government dole.”
He that in 2010, Medicaid cost taxpayers $400 billion and provided insurance to 54 million people. He said 17 million Americans would be added to Medicaid because of Obamacare and by 2020, Medicaid will cover 85 million Americans at a cost of $870 billion annually.
He also quoted studies that said surgical patients on Medicaid are 13 percent more likely to die than uninsured patients and 97 percent more likely to die than privately-insured patients.
The coalition, which Balyeat said comprises so far about a dozen doctors and members of the health care field, will begin offering opinion pieces to newspapers and speaking out against Obamacare.
Annie Bukacek, an internist who said she would come up with a way to not participate in Obamacare, said the law would “dramatically slash the quality of patient care, especially those who need it most.”
“Government-run health care won’t take care of you,” she said. “The ones that need it the most are left by the wayside.”
Jean Branscum, executive vice president of the Montana Medical Association, which represents 2,200 physicians in the state, said her organization has not taken a political position on Obamacare.
She said the association is, however, educating physicians about what they will have to do to comply with laws and how the laws will impact them.
Last week, the Congressional Budget Office came out with a report that the health care overhaul would provide health insurance to about 3 million more low-income Americans. It also said the cost of expanding coverage will be $1.68 trillion.
Obamacare requires people to buy health insurance by 2014 or pay a penalty. It was upheld on June 28 by the U.S. Supreme Court on a 5-4 vote. The court ruled the individual mandate to buy health insurance was a legitimate exercise of congressional taxing authority.
The court also made it optional for states to participate in the expansion of Medicaid. According to information posted by the Montana Policy Institute, a Bozeman-based think tank and publisher of Montana Watchdog, depending on participation rate assumptions, by 2019 Obamacare’s impact on Montana will be seen in additional Medicaid enrollment increases in the range of 57,000 to 79,000, with an additional cost burden for the state budget ranging from $100 million to $155 million.
While the individual mandate drew most of the attention in the Supreme Court debate, the biggest issue for state governments is the expansion of Medicaid coverage, which is now mandated for everyone up to 133 percent of the poverty line.
Medicaid until now has been for poor families with children, pregnant women, the blind, the elderly and a few other groups. The new law would cover every person with income below the established level.
The Supreme Court found that Congress cannot strip current Medicaid funding from states that refuse to go along with federal expansion of the program.
While the federal government is covering the initial costs, some of the burden over the long run falls to the states.
In March 2010, Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock, now the Democratic candidate for governor, refused to join 26 states in opposing Obamacare, saying their lawsuit lacked merit.
In February, 71 Montana GOP lawmakers and organizations became part of a “friend of the court” brief filed by the Cato Institute that urges the U.S. Supreme Court to affirm the 11th Circuit Court ruling that the law passed in 2010 exceeds Congress’ power to regulate interstate commerce. The 11th Circuit Court ruling was appealed by the Obama administration.
The health reform law also mandates creation of state-based health exchanges, but again gives states the decision to opt out. Exchanges are online health insurance markets designed to streamline coverage purchasing.
In Montana, lawmakers rejected two attempts to set up the exchanges, thereby setting the stage for the exchanges to be operated by the federal government.