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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Montanans Sound-Off On Healthcare


Healthcare has again moved toward the top of the agenda in Montana’s special election race for the state’s lone seat in the U.S. House. Whichever candidate wins the race, there’s no way they’ll be able to represent everyone in Montana on healthcare.

Republican Greg Gianforte says the Affordable Care Act needs to be repealed and replaced, but says he doesn’t support the bill the House passed Thursday.

Democrat Rob Quist says the Affordable Care Act should stay in place, but needs fixing. He says a Medicare-style single payer system, quote, “would be nice eventually,” but that’s not realistic for now.

“I think everyone should have free healthcare,” says Missoula resident Kristin Hester.

It’s not hard to find others in Missoula who feel the same way.

“I’m Jeremey Shines, and I think healthcare should be free for everybody.

But head north about 70 miles, to Polson, and you’ll meet people like Mary Mutch.

“I’d like the government to get out of it and have the insurance companies run it, and not have socialized medicine at all. Just get out of it,” Much says.

We met Mary Mutch at meeting in Kalispell, for the hard-core conservative group ACT for America.

Also there was Gary Wagner, who’s from Kalispell:

“I think we have an excellent healthcare program,  I just think – I could see getting people covered. I don’t think anybody should be without it. I don’t think anybody in this country should be going hungry, either," Wagner says.

Wagner didn’t offer a solution. He said healthcare used to be better in the U.S., and that he doesn’t want socialized medicine like exists in Canada or Sweden, because the tax burdens are too high.

Polarized opinions are not hard to find on healthcare in Montana.

“My name’s L.J. Dawson and I’m a journalism student at the University of Montana. I think abortion is important, a woman’s right to lead healthy, productive lives and have the resources they need to do that.”

And here’s Frank Mutch from Polson:

"As conservative Christians, we feel very strongly that the government should not be funding abortions."

And Mary Mutch: "And Planned Parenthood, I don’t like a penny of my money going to Planned Parenthood."

Others say ideology is less important to them than taking care of others – at least to a point:

“I’m Tina Obermeyer. I am a senior citizen, and I worry so much about other senior citizens who are trying to live on a fixed income, and healthcare costs take up a huge part of seniors’ budgets."

Jessi Zilner, from Kila:

“I am Republican and I am a vet, so if you want something you work for it. We take care of those people who cannot take care of themselves; the young, the disabled, the elderly. But those who can, need to do for themselves. They need to make an effort to do so, and quite frankly, my shoulders are getting heavy. It’s getting heavy. The whole, just across the board let government pay for it? I just don’t think that’s the way to go. Don’t."

These voices were gathered last week, just after the U.S. House passed the American Health Care Act, which is now up to the Senate to vote on, modify or scrap entirely. They were gathered by MTPR’s Beau Baker and Nicky Ouellet.

Eric Whitney is NPR's Mountain West/Great Plains Bureau Chief, and was the former news director for Montana Public Radio.
Nicky is MTPR's Flathead-area reporter.
Beau is a former Morning Edition host and producer and engineer for the MTPR program "Capitol Talk." He worked as a reporter, and hosted Freeforms once a month.
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