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Panel discusses healthcare access, impacts of COVID-19

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News from Protect Our Care Montana 

MONTANA — Protect Our Care Montana joined Health Care Voter for a virtual town hall to discuss the impact of COVID-19 in the state and the importance of healthcare access during the pandemic. Led by Dr. Cora Neumann, a panel of Rep. Barbara Bessette (D - HD 24), Amy Coseo and Dr. Anne Giuliano shared insights and reflections. 

Coseo, a small business owner and cancer survivor from Missoula, shared her story of having to run her business during her cancer diagnosis: “I look at the stress and the burden we’re putting on small businesses in regard to healthcare access and there’s just no end to it. I worked every day I was going through chemo because I had to. I think of our communities and I cannot fathom the stress of a diagnosis during a pandemic combined with the fear of losing access to healthcare. It’s unacceptable.”

Dr. Neumann said:  “A recent study found that without the efforts of Governor Bullock’s shelter in place order, we could have lost up to 2,600 lives over a six-month period,” citing a study from the University of Montana regarding Montana’s COVID-19 response. “We are at 17 deaths. We’re there because we have decisive, thoughtful leadership at the state level.”

Rep. Bessette echoed Dr. Neumann, further urging Montanans to remain vigilant as the state moves through reopening phases during the summer months. “We took such quick action, our success was because of our preventive measures,” said Bessette. “Governor Bullock listened to the experts, and now, we are in reopening phases, but it’s up to us to help keep Montana safe.”

Dr. Giuliano, a radiologist from Billings and candidate for HD 51, brought the conversation around to the importance of programs like Montana’s Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act, especially during a nationwide emergency. “A number of preexisting conditions affect women, like pregnancy,” said Dr. Giuliano. “If we lose the ACA, about 50 percent will lose access to healthcare, including the 80,000 Montanans who are covered under Montana’s Medicaid. The blunt piece of losing the ACA and Medicaid expansion is: people are going to die.”

As they took questions from viewers, Dr. Neumann and the panelists explained that protecting programs like Montana’s Medicaid and the ACA require Montanans to be active in elections and engaging candidates at every level. Coseo summarized the discussion and highlighted the need for continued engagement of voters everywhere, “Change doesn’t come from complacency.”

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