Guest column: Cooney/Schreiner ticket no stranger to fights

Source: Great Falls Tribune

The next governor and lieutenant governor of Montana are going to face some incredibly tough fights: taking on Big Pharma to bring down the cost of prescription drugs, standing up to dark money and special interests that seek to block progress on climate change, and holding the line on increasingly extreme attacks on a woman’s right to choose, on workers’ rights, on our public education system, and on 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 involved in public service because I think Montana families deserve folks fighting for them in Helena who know first-hand the challenges they face.

So when Mike asked me to get back on the campaign trail as his lieutenant governor running mate I knew it was my chance to keep up my fight for Montana’s working families. We need leaders who understand 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 healthcare system.

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 the health of my wife and newborn, our family got an Explanation of Benefits form from our health insurance company. It 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 lead the fight to reauthorize Medicaid expansion this past legislative session to protect health care for 1 in 10 Montanans and provide stability to our rural hospitals. And under the leadership of Gov. Steve Bullock and Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney the state has worked hard to expand access to health care and find ways to reduce the burden of costs on our family, friends and neighbors.

One of the questions Mike and I hear everywhere we go 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 just across the border in Canada it costs $35. Mike has already announced his support for the safe and legal importation of prescription drugs from Canada.

This is a bipartisan proposal that would help Montana families all across the state. We can and 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 the Montana Legislature 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, Sen. Jon Tester, former Ambassador to China and Sen. Max Baucus — and thousands of Montanans in all 56 counties across the state — 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.

Casey Schreiner of 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.