Cooney and Schreiner will fight for Montanans’ health care

Source: Helena Independent Record

he next governor and lieutenant governor of Montana are going to face incredibly tough fights: taking on Big Pharma to bring down the cost of prescription drugs, standing up to special interests that seek to block progress on climate change, and holding the line on attacks on a woman’s right to choose, workers’ rights, our public education system and our public lands.

Mike Cooney and I are no strangers to tough fights. I’m a lifelong union member, former public-school teacher, and special needs dad. I got into public service because I think Montanans deserve folks fighting for them in Helena who know firsthand the challenges they face: living paycheck to paycheck, the impacts of student loans on a family, and what it’s like to deal with astronomical medical costs and navigate our confusing and costly health-care system. So when Mike asked me to get back on the campaign trail I knew it was my chance to keep up my fight.

The fight for quality and affordable health care is a personal one for me. Six years ago, our son Aiden was born almost seven weeks premature. After a complicated birth and days spent worrying about my wife and newborn, we got an explanation of benefits from our health insurance company which said we owed about $65,000 out-of-pocket for Aiden’s first day of life. As a new father, I was terrified. I will never forget that experience and I know there are many Montana families with similar stories. These are the families I’m fighting for because I’ve walked in their shoes.

As Democratic leader of the House, I helped fight to reauthorize Medicaid expansion to protect health care for 1 in 10 Montanans and provide stability to rural hospitals. Under the leadership of Gov. Steve Bullock and Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney, Montana has expanded access to health care and found ways to reduce the burden of costs on Montana families. Still one of the questions Mike and I hear everywhere we go — from Democrats and Republicans in urban and rural Montana — is how we’re going to address the rising costs of health care and skyrocketing costs of prescription drugs.

With the right leadership in the Governor’s Office there are things we can do on Day One of the next legislative session to immediately help Montanans struggling with health-care costs. It is immoral that Montanans have to pay over $275 for a vial of insulin when in Canada it costs $35. Mike has announced his support for the safe and legal importation of prescription drugs from Canada. This is a bipartisan proposal that would help all Montana families. We should also look at price caps for high-cost medications, incentives for rural health-care providers and continued investments in substance abuse treatment and mental health services.

And we need to do everything we can to protect Medicaid expansion. There are growing threats in Montana and in Washington, D.C., to attack Medicaid, undermine coverage for folks with pre-existing conditions, and even dismantle the entire Affordable Care Act. It’s going to take a team of proven leaders who are willing to go to bat for Montanans against powerful special-interests group seeking to roll back all of the progress we’ve made here in the state.

Mike and I have a record of delivering results for working Montana families. With the support of Montana leaders like Gov. Bullock, U.S. Sen. Jon Tester and former Sen. Max Baucus — and thousands of Montanans in all 56 counties — we’ve got the energy and the support to bring our Montana values to the Governor’s Office and protect our quality of life for future generations.

Rep. Casey Schreiner, D-Great Falls, is Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney’s running mate for governor. He served as House Democratic leader during the 66th Montana Legislature and is a former public school teacher.