MHA President Dick Brown of Helena

DICK BROWN

The first news stories of each New Year usually feature people working around the clock to make our communities great. Routine coverage includes the men and women who protect our neighborhoods, maintain our roadways and make it possible to access health care at any time of the day or night. It’s a subtle reminder that Montanans value their way of life and are working together to protect it.

Health care workers will continue to advance progress as the state’s largest labor force. They are the doctors and nurses who delivered the first babies after midnight, the therapists and counselors behind many resolutions and the emergency responders who answered the after-hour calls for help. We trust them to perform lifesaving procedures and provide high quality and compassionate care to our loved ones. Their teams run our hospitals and nursing homes and make house calls to support patients and caregivers.

They’re an essential partner in sustaining healthy and productive communities and, like their neighbors, they’re committed to getting the job done.

This past week, inaction in Congress led to the 19th government shutdown in modern history. It began over the weekend when lawmakers failed to approve a budget that funded the government beyond Jan. 19. It ended Monday evening when President Trump signed a temporary, three-week funding deal that sets the stage for another funding showdown in early February.

Imagine the disaster our state would be if we all demonstrated the same work ethic. There are good leaders in Washington, but too often, the politics prevents progress.

Montanans need bipartisan solutions that regain our trust and invest in the state long term. We need certainty that our government values the contributions of health care workers and the individuals they care for 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Reauthorizing the Children’s Health Insurance Program is a good start, and we’re pleased the relief was included in last week’s funding deal. However, there is a lot of unfinished business that Congress must address in order to maintain access to health care in our rural state.

We’re not asking that they work around the clock, just that they agree to stop the uncertainty and start focusing on getting the job done.

Dick Brown, of Helena, is president of the Montana Hospital Association, which represents hospitals and other Montana health care organizations.

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