Rosendale Highlights Key Health Insurance Bills of the 2017 Legislature

Kyle Schmauch 2017, Insurance, Legislature, Press Release

HELENA, MT – Commissioner of Securities and Insurance Matt Rosendale today highlighted key health insurance bills at the close of the 2017 Montana Legislature.

“We’re working every day to decrease health care and insurance costs, create more options, provide better access, and respect Montanans’ personal and religious choices,” Rosendale said. “As the consumer advocate for Montanans, my office supported many good bills this legislative session to make progress on those goals. These bills were sponsored by both Republicans and Democrats.”

The Office of the Montana State Auditor and Commissioner of Securities and Insurance Matt Rosendale supported the following key health insurance bills in the 2017 Montana Legislature:

HB 652, sponsored by Rep. Rob Cook (R-Conrad)
Status as of 4/28/17: Passed with bipartisan support, transmitted to the governor
Effect: Would allow the insurance commissioner to pursue a waiver from the federal government to create a made-in-Montana re-insurance program or other mechanism to stabilize the health insurance marketplace and reduce the cost of health insurance. The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) allows states to request 1332 innovation waivers to create state-specific programs to improve health insurance access and reduce costs. A waiver could also be pursued in the event of a repeal or change to Obamacare at the federal level.
Rosendale: “HB 652 would grant my office the authority to request a waiver from the federal government to create a program tailored to the unique needs of Montana. We could improve Montanans’ health care by reducing the cost of health insurance, providing more access, protecting people with preexisting conditions, and stabilizing the insurance market with the governor’s signature on this bill. We can accomplish this regardless of whether Congress repeals Obamacare or keeps it in place. Re-insurance and state innovation has been proven to work in Alaska and enjoys bipartisan support around the nation. I urge Governor Bullock to sign this bipartisan bill so that we can improve health care in Montana.”

SB 362, Sen. Ed Buttrey (R-Great Falls)
Status: Passed the legislature with bipartisan support, transmitted to the governor
Effect: SB 362 requires transparency in health care pricing to empower consumers with more knowledge of the cost of health care procedures and what their insurance covers.
Rosendale: “SB 362 is a step in the right direction to increase transparency in health care costs. With greater transparency in prices, consumers are empowered to make better decisions. Unfortunately, some of the stronger provisions of this bill to further empower Montanans were gutted during the legislative process. We have more work to do to further increase health care transparency and provide consumers with an incentive to shop for the best price and directly decrease the costs of their health care.”

HB 123, Rep. Amanda Curtis (D-Butte)
Status: Passed both chambers of the legislature with bipartisan support, died in conference committee
Effect: HB 123 required transparency in health care and health insurance pricing, gave consumers the “right to shop” for the best available price available, and required an incentive to shop by ensuring consumers would directly benefit from seeking more affordable prices.
Rosendale: “This bill would have been a much stronger approach than SB 362 to decreasing health care costs by improving transparency and encouraging competition. I will continue to work to strengthen transparency and empower consumers to shop for the most affordable health care options.”

SB 100, Sen. Cary Smith (R-Billings)
Status: vetoed by the governor
Effect: Would have affirmatively stated in code that direct primary care agreements between patients and doctors are not insurance. Would have made it clear that Montanans and their doctors can work together to increase access to affordable health care services.
Rosendale: “This was a common sense bill to give Montanans another option to meet their individual primary health care needs. I’m going to work to give Montanans more affordable health care options despite the governor’s obstruction.”

HB 266, Rep. Nancy Balance (R-Hamilton)
Status: vetoed by the governor
Effect: Would have allowed Montana to be included in an interstate compact of member states seeking to protect control over health care decisions.
Rosendale: “This is yet another disappointing veto by the governor that will limit our ability to collaborate with our neighbor states to lower insurance costs. We’ll keep fighting to improve access and reduce health care costs despite the governor’s obstruction.”
Ballance: “Instead of standing on the side of individual choice and local control when it comes to healthcare, Governor Bullock has once again sided with failed Obamacare policies. The primary reason given for the veto is that the governor vetoed this bill last session, but that doesn’t make it any less of a good idea for the people of Montana.”

HJ 17, Rep. Jonathan Windy Boy (D-Box Elder)
Status: passed the legislature
Effect: Create an interim study of prescription drug costs and pricing
Rosendale: “Prescription drug costs are a huge problem and contribute to the high cost of health care. I look forward to working with the Legislature to address this problem.”

HJ 20, Rep. Kathy Kelker (D-Billings)
Status: passed the legislature
Effect: Create an interim study of transparency in health care pricing
Rosendale: “We made progress on transparency this legislative session, but we’ve got more work to do. We need more sunshine in the health care industry, and I look forward to working with all Montanans who want to bring costs out of the dark.”

SB 345, Sen. Cary Smith (R-Billings)
Status: passed the legislature, transmitted to the governor
Effect: The Affordable High-Deductible Health Insurance Plan Act would help small businesses provide health insurance to their employees through tax incentives.
Rosendale: “This bill will help Montana small businesses provide health insurance to their employees and I encourage the governor to sign this common sense bill into law.”

HB 142, Rep. Laurie Bishop (D-Livingston)
Status: passed the legislature, transmitted to the governor
Effect: Give mental health coverage parity with physical health coverage

HB 469, Rep. Lola Sheldon-Galloway (R-Great Falls)
Status: signed by the governor
Effect: Revise health insurance laws to expand freedom of choice to licensed marriage and family therapists

SB 340, Sen. Cary Smith (R-Billings)
Status: passed the legislature, transmitted to the governor
Effect: Allow consumers to shop out-of-state for affordable health insurance

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