By Mary Westwood, Chair of the Yellowstone County Platform Committee
(Any opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author, but the words of the Montana Democratic Platform are available to all and should encourage discussion and understanding among all Montanans.)
Today, we can’t talk about Health Care in Montana without mentioning our third leading cause of death, Covid-19. Recent statistics show that 1,258 individuals died of Covid-19 in 2020 when no vaccine was available to Montana residents. Up to the end of October, 2021, some 1,145 Montanans have died of Covid-19 this year despite the wide availability of vaccines to combat the disease. This is a public health crisis and shows the lack of leadership from Helena in what should be a fundamental right of all Montanans, the right to appropriate and adequate health care.
Montana Democrats have been leading the way in health care for decades, fighting for equal treatment of all people and affordable health care options for all health problems, including mental health care, addiction services and preventative care. These kind of services reduce costs to taxpayers by reducing the overall costs of health care to our population and restoring productive citizens to our communities.
The current state administration apparently does not care that Montana is one of a few states leading the nation in preventable deaths per capita from Covid-19 because it is protecting peoples “freedom” to infect their neighbors and die. This is especially troublesome when some of our most vulnerable Montanans, our children, have not yet
Democrats also believe in protecting our children from abuse and exploitation while working to strengthen families and communities. Each child, regardless of their circumstances should be given every opportunity to grow to their fullest potential and policies properly implemented can achieve that goal. And at the other end of life, our elders deserve to live out their lives in peace and dignity – something that did not happen before a Democratic President and Congress enacted Social Security. Those are some of the values our party holds dear.
The right to privacy in medical decisions and information is also a solid pillar of Democratic policy. Private decisions about family belong to the individual, not to state or federal government and certainly not to close-minded zealots who don’t know the circumstances of the family or the individual.
By helping your neighbors understand what Democrats really believe, you can help them learn that all Montanans believe much the same thing – that health care is a human right and that human services to those in need help us forge a more perfect union. This is what the Montana Democratic Party Platform has to say about health care and human services.
Health Care and Human Services
We are dedicated to ensuring quality of life and equality of opportunity for all individuals and families, regardless of their socio-economic status. Fundamental to such quality and equality is access to the basic necessities of life, including, at a minimum, health care, education, shelter, adequate nutrition, human dignity, and lives free of violence.
● Health care as a human right.
● Any and all efforts to address Montana’s growing public health crisis of suicide.
● Affordable and accessible health care for all Montanans.
● Montanans’ right to choose their health care providers.
● Montanans’ right to keep their personal medical information private.
● Patient-centered approaches to prevent and treat chronic disease.
● Effective responses to mental illness, substance abuse disorders, and gambling addiction.
● Health insurance programs that encourage preventative care, provide coverage parity for mental health services and substance abuse disorders, and preserve adequate coverage for low-income Montanans.
● Proactive measures to address the needs of Montana’s aging population.
● Efforts to maintain and improve funding for rural health care.
● Community-based mental illness and addiction crisis intervention and recovery as the preferred approach.
● Robust state, local, and tribal public health departments to respond to and protect our communities from outbreaks of infectious diseases.
● Addressing the skyrocketing costs of prescription drugs, so that all Montanans can afford their medications.
● Laws and other government actions that interfere with the privacy rights of individuals to make their own health decisions, including decisions about contraception, child-bearing, and dying.
● Limiting access to legal health care services associated with individuals’ private decisions.
● Privatizing Medicare or changing to a voucher system.
● Efforts to remove or limit health insurance protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
● Collaboration and cooperation between public, private, non-profit, and faith-based organizations in adopting policies and services that strengthen all families and communities.● Funding to prevent, diminish, and respond effectively to domestic violence and child abuse through education, early intervention, more resources for shelters, adequate staffing, and treatment, including 8 residential treatment.
● Holding those found guilty of assault or abuse accountable and prioritizing the protection of the victim.
● Effective and accessible senior services, including ombudsman and advocacy services in all facets of senior living experiences.
● Developing and assessing effective measures to protect the health and safety of Montana’s seniors.
● Full inclusion of people with disabilities and Montana’s senior citizens in our communities through a well-funded network of community-based services.
● Full compliance with the philosophy and requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to allow everyone to lead a productive, dignified life.
● Safe, affordable, and accessible housing for all Montanans; respect for the rights of renters.
● Efforts to help the homeless and housing-insecure to obtain decent shelter, social services, medical services, educational programs, and other support services that will help them maintain stable living circumstances.
● Strengthening programs that feed those who are hungry.
● Increased access to affordable childcare.
● Any privatization of Social Security.
What you can do to support these great values:
Become an active participant in your party. Volunteer at yellowstonedemocrats.org. Every two years, all Montana Democrats are invited to participate in defining what they and their party stand for. These ideas begin in each county and are further refined at a statewide meeting of elected
delegates where debate is welcomed and encouraged. Any Democrat can attend the State Platform Convention and advocate for a particular idea.
The next Yellowstone County Platform Convention will be in May, 2022. The State Platform Convention will be held in the summer of 2022. As an individual Democrat, you have the power to define what your party believes and supports through participation, legislation and governance. Please be a truth seeker, ignore unsubstantiated rumors and help your fellow citizens get the real information about your party. Share our platform with your friends and neighbors. We are many who have become one in this great experiment in democracy.