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Montana politics, elections and legislative news.

Cooney Releases Health Care Plan

Montana lt. governor and gubernatorial candidate Mike Cooney.

Montana’s Democratic candidate for governor announced a plan Wednesday that he says will increase access to health care and lower prescription drug prices.

The plan reiterates Lt. Gov Mike Cooney’s support for Montana’s Medicaid expansion program, which was reauthorized with bipartisan support during the 2019 legislative session. The plan also outlines several legislative actions Cooney would push aimed at decreasing the cost of prescriptions.

Cooney is running for governor against Republican U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte.

During a press conference in Bozeman, Cooney said his “Keep Montana Healthy Plan” would also require insurance companies operating in Montana to fully cover the cost of COVID-19 tests and treatment.

“As we continue to navigate through a once in a lifetime pandemic, access to quality affordable health care is one the most important issues facing Montana families.”

The plan says Cooney would push bills that cap the price of insulin copays, discourage price gouging of prescription drugs and allow the import of cheaper prescriptions from Canada. These measures would require approval from the Montana Legislature to move forward.

Cooney’s plan says he’d veto any attempt to weaken the state’s Medicaid expansion program and would oppose any effort to repeal the federal Affordable Care Act, saying they keep thousands of Montanas insured.

"Medicaid expansion has created 7,500 jobs and $385 million in income in Montana," Cooney said.

His plan also says he’d provide incentives to behavioral health providers to increase the availability of services, and that he’d continue to work on the Tribal Health Improvement Program.

Cooney criticized his political opponent, Gianforte, for supporting the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, saying such a move would take coverage away from more than 100,000 Montanans.

Gianforte has supported repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, but told YPR in April that he would not support repealing Medicaid expansion within the state.

Gianforte released a “Montana Comeback Plan” in July that outlines his priorities for health care that include lowering health care costs, ending surprise medical billing and making prescription drugs cheaper.

Travis Hall, spokesperson for the Gianforte campaign, criticized Cooney’s plan in a statement saying it came a month later than Gianforte’s, is shorter and outlines similar ideas. He said "Montanans deserve better" than Cooney’s plan.

Shaylee is Montana Public Radio's Capitol reporter. She previously worked for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle and covered the 2019 legislative session for the University of Montana's Legislative News Service.
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