During the Kalispell debate between Jon Tester and Congressman Dennis Rehberg, Congressman Rehberg was asked to defend the bill he wrote to fund the Department of Health and Human Services—a bill that cut every cent of family planning (Title X) resources from the U.S. budget. Rehberg’s justification for zeroing out this program and turning his back on Montana’s families was that family planning is a duplicated service, and that Montana women can simply turn to Medicare. Congressman Rehberg’s answer is profoundly worrisome.
It’s not just his abandonment of the women of Montana. But his response reveals that after his twelve years in Washington, he’s out of touch with Montana, he knows very little about how health care works in our state, and he fails to understand the health care decisions Montana women make every day.
Congressman, let me catch you up to speed on how thousands of Montana women access health care.
First, most reproductive-aged women cannot access Medicare for the purposes of family planning services. Medicare is only available to women under 65 if they have severe medical disabilities and the men and women we are talking about simply don’t qualify. However, if you meant to say ”Medicaid”, Congressman Rehberg, let me remind you that Montana has one of the lowest Medicaid eligibility rates in the country. Basic Medicaid eligibility in Montana is quite strict. To be eligible, our state requires you to be a parent or related adult of a dependent child at or below 33% of the federal poverty level, or that you are a child, pregnant, diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer, older than 65, or blind and disabled. Through Medicaid alone, thousands of Montana women are left without care. Title X was designed solely for this purpose – so women not sick or poor enough to qualify for Medicaid could still access preventive care in the hope they can remain healthy.
Finally, in my role as the Director of Public Affairs for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Montana, I have briefed Congressman Rehberg’s staff twice to explain the important role Title X plays in Montana women’s lives, and have detailed its lifesaving services provided to almost 28,000 Montana men and women across the state. I have carefully outlined why Title X family planning is not a duplicated service in Montana, just as I have here. Listening to Congressman Rehberg’s remarks in Kalispell, it’s clear these facts have not gotten through to him. Instead, he tried on multiple occasions to end a successful public health program that has proven time and again to save lives and taxpayer dollars.
Congressman Rehberg ignores the point in his office, and he clearly ignores it on his campaign trail. Maybe we need to be a little more explicit: Montana’s Title X program serves nearly 26,000 Montana women every year. This means one in eight Montana women of reproductive age use family planning for their health care. Chances are each of us can name eight women in our lives. Chances are, one of those eight women depends on these health care services. In short, each of us knows someone who relies on the Title X program. I can think of eight women in my life – my friends, my family, and one day my daughter, and I understand how vital these services are. I can do my part to stand up for a program that means so much to so many Montana women – I can vote.
I’m asking Dennis Rehberg -can you think of the one in eight Montana women who rely on this program? Can you represent their interests? Can you set aside partisanship in favor of economic sense? Unfortunately, the last 12 years have shown us that you can’t, you won’t, and that’s why you are the wrong choice for the US Senate.
Given how out of touch Dennis Rehberg is, it’s no surprise a majority of Montana women show their support for Jon Tester—a Montana farmer who shares our values. Jon is a proud father and grandfather. He understands the importance of family planning resources in Montana and the difference it makes in the lives of Montana women and families. Jon Tester is the Senator we need in Washington.
Director of Public Affairs
Planned Parenthood Advocates of Montana