Lindeen to Research Effects of Health Insurance Reform

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Survey will look at entire insured population of Montana

HELENA, Mont. – As federal officials released today the final number of Montanans who bought 2015 health insurance through, Montana Insurance Commissioner Monica J. Lindeen announced her office is launching its own research into the effects of health insurance reform in Montana this year.

More than 54,000 Montanans bought health insurance through the website, according to federal statistics, but that number doesn’t tell the entire story of how many Montanans actually have health insurance, Lindeen said.

“Last year, we saw a net increase of 30,000 Montanans coming into the ranks of the insured after open enrollment ended,” Lindeen said Wednesday. “My office is continuing our research this year to understand how health insurance reform is affecting Montanans – and hopefully shrinking the number of us who have no health care coverage.”

There are many ways to buy health insurance. Buying through is only one way. Considerably more Montanans bought insurance through this year than last year, according to federal statistics.

Those statistics are important, Lindeen said, because they show the number of Montanans who selected insurance plans — many of whom are likely receiving federal tax credits to help make health insurance more affordable. But those statistics don’t include Montanans who acquired health insurance outside of or those who may have newly acquired health insurance through work.

Lindeen’s office will be surveying Montana’s health insurance companies this spring to find the total number of Montanans who have health insurance – regardless of how or where they bought it. That figure, Lindeen said, is a much more precise measure of the effects of health insurance reform on reducing the number of Montanans who continue to lack health insurance.

Last year’s report showed that health insurance reform had shrunk the uninsured population by about 30,000 people in Montana.

Despite those gains, Lindeen said she expects that somewhere between 50,000 and 70,000 Montanans will continue to lack coverage this year because they make too little to qualify for federal tax credits – but too much to qualify for Montana’s Medicaid program. The 2013 Montana Legislature chose not to accept federal dollars to cover those individuals.

The 2015 Montana Legislature is again debating expanding the Montana Medicaid program, but no decisions have been made.