By: Matt Rosendale
Health insurance companies will file proposed 2019 rates with my office later this month. The proposed rate changes will not apply to anyone who has health insurance through a large employer or a government program like Medicare or Medicaid. The new rates will affect the roughly 100,000 Montanans who purchase individual or small group health insurance through the federal exchange or the open market.
While we don’t yet know what the rates will be, I expect to see increases again, as we have every single year since Obamacare was implemented. Obamacare has made a mess of our health insurance and health care systems, and Washington politicians have failed to fix the problem.
The good news is that President Trump and congressional Republicans repealed the individual mandate. That means you won’t be forced to purchase an Obamacare plan and won’t be penalized with a tax in 2019 for choosing a different health care plan that you prefer. Other actions by President Trump will expand health insurance options, and I anticipate those proposed changes will give many people lower cost alternatives to meet their health care needs by 2019.
As your state insurance commissioner, I have very limited authority over the Obamacare system created and enforced by the federal government. My office reviews the insurance companies’ rates and shares that information with the public, but we can’t set the rates. One of the major problems with Obamacare—and another reason it needs to be entirely repealed—is that it prevents Montanans from developing our own, better health care system.
Even with these limitations, I have acted within my authority to expand health care options and lower costs for the people of Montana. I advised the insurance companies to apply certain rate adjustments only to plans where the federal government provides assistance in order to save Montanans money and keep rates lower on other plans.
I took action to allow Montanans to participate in direct primary care agreements with doctors and authorized the use health care sharing ministries, both of which provide alternatives for more affordable health care. My office is actively engaged in shining a light on the major problems within the pharmaceutical industry that are driving the huge costs of prescription drugs.
I also worked with the Montana legislature to pass bipartisan bills to improve access to health care. Unfortunately, the governor vetoed those bills for political reasons. If not for those vetoes, we would have made health care prices more transparent so Montanans could shop for more affordable options, and we’d be well on our way to a reinsurance program to lower insurance rates.
Despite all the political obstruction, the problems created by Obamacare, and Washington’s failed top-down approach, I’ll continue to bring solutions at both the federal and state level to lower the cost of accessing health care. I’ll keep fighting to give you more options to meet your health care needs according to your own budget and personal decisions.
Matt Rosendale is Montana’s State Auditor, Commissioner of Securities and Insurance