When the Affordable Care Act was being written back in 2009, one of the individuals most concerned about what it would cover was Senator Max Baucus (D) of Montana.
After all, he had a town full of constituents that were sick and dying, all because of exposure to asbestos-tainted vermiculite found in the mines belonging to W.R. Grace and Company.
Baucus knew that several hundred were already dead and hundreds more were ill, so he saw to it that three special provisions were included within the healthcare law for Libby asbestos victims.
Now, with the repeal of Affordable Care Act about to become a reality, those who’ve depended on the provisions of the healthcare act are worried.
According to an article in the Helena Independent Record, many believe that the protections afforded them by Obamacare will soon be a thing of the past.
Those provisions include:
- Money for a screening program at the Libby’s asbestos-related disease clinic, known as the CARD Clinic. The screening program is vital to the entire town because more and more victims are being diagnosed each year. Because mesothelioma can take decades to develop, it’s too early to end the screening program as no one knows how many more Libby residents will develop the disease and when.
- Anyone diagnosed with asbestos-related disease in Libby is automatically eligible under the ACA for Medicare, regardless of their age.
- The healthcare law provides funds for a pilot program that offers a wide range of medical care and home support not covered by Medicare.
Baucus pushed hard for these provisions and many area residents feel indebted to him for his hard work on their behalf.
“I’ll be frank,” Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) told the newspaper. “Libby would have had a hard time getting what it got if it weren’t for Baucus’ position at the time. Libby presents huge healthcare challenges.”
But no one quite knows what’s in the works at this point. While House Republicans want to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, it’s unclear as to what might take its place and what would be included – if anything – to relieve the financial burden of the Libby asbestos victims and to keep screening going for years to come.
Tester believes a total repeal would be disastrous. His counterpart on the Republican side of the aisle disagrees.
“Obamacare is in a death spiral — in Montana, families are seeing insurance hikes that average between 27 and 58 percent in 2017 alone,” argued Senator Steve Daines. While he agrees that “too many Libby families have suffered from the deadly effects of asbestos exposure,” and “those impacted by asbestos must be taken care of,” he also believes that “too many Montanans have suffered under Obamacare.”
“It’s critical that with repealing and replacing Obamacare we work in a bipartisan way to return healthcare decisions back to Montanans and create solutions that better work for rural Montana,” Daines added, offering his opinion that the Libby provisions will likely be untouched when the new program rolls in.