HELENA, Mont. – On Friday, March 4th, Commissioner Monica Lindeen testified in opposition to SB 125, a bill that prohibits state government from administering health insurance reform requirements. Lindeen testified on why the bill fundamentally conflicts with her constitutional duties as Montana’s Commissioner of Securities and Insurance.
SB 125 proposes that a state agency be prohibited from “implementing or enforcing in any way the provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) that relate to the requirement for individuals to purchase health insurance and maintain minimum essential health insurance coverage.” Under the federal law, the Treasury Department will be enforcing individual responsibility penalties. The Montana Office of Commissioner of Securities and Insurance will not be enforcing those provisions. In light of that fact, this bill is unnecessary.
Commissioner Lindeen serves as a state-wide elected official holding an office that is created in the Montana constitution (Art. IV, Section 4), and I is charged with the constitutional and statutory duties that include the protection of insurance consumers in this state and the regulation of insurance. This bill interferes with the Commissioner’s ability to serve Montanans as she was elected to do. The power of the government of this state is divided into three distinct branches—legislative, executive, and judicial. No person or persons charged with the exercise of power properly belonging to one branch shall exercise any power properly belonging to either of the others, except as in this constitution expressly directed or permitted.
This bill restricts Commissioner Lindeen’s involvement in the NAIC, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners by prohibiting her from participating in any NAIC discussions of the individual mandate for health insurance. The NAIC has become increasingly important in recent years in strengthening state regulation of the insurance industry and creating uniform standards for states so that insurance companies can remain competitive across state lines.
The NAIC has played a critical role in fending off efforts to shift insurance regulation to federal government. Being restricted from participating in NAIC discussions would seriously hinder Commissioner Lindeen’s and her staff’s ability to serve Montanans because that is where her office gains their knowledge about what is happening on the federal level and in other states with insurance.
“I certainly did not create or propose the individual responsibility requirement, but I cannot remain ignorant of its possible legal effects on the industry that I am charged with regulating or the citizens that I am charged with protecting,” said Lindeen.