Montana Needs Real Health Care Reform

My role as Commissioner of Securities and Insurance is to advocate for the interests of average Montana insurance customers

Obamacare is in a death spiral.

Insurance premiums increased yet again by an average of 25 to 50 percent this year in Montana. As more insurers abandon the Affordable Care Act’s exchange, costs continue to skyrocket.

These trends are unsustainable, and the system is collapsing under its own weight. As I’ve traveled across the state, Montanans have told me that reform is necessary. My role as Commissioner of Securities and Insurance is to advocate for the interests of average Montana insurance customers. I’m committed to fighting for health care policies that expand options, reduce costs, improve access, and respect personal choices.

To accomplish that, I’ve been working on a twofold approach to health care reform: making recommendations to Congress as they move forward with repealing Obamacare, and pursuing good policies in Montana that don’t require federal action.

As I write this, the Obamacare repeal bill still had major problems. It needs to be changed, and I’m encouraging Congress to adopt my recommendations as the bill moves through the process to empower Montana with more flexibility to develop a health care system that best suits the unique needs of our rural state.

I’ve recommended that Congress repeal regulations which limit the types of health insurance Montanans can buy, opening the door to simpler, cheaper options. I’ve told them that we need to end federal tax biases and extend a tax incentive for purchasing health insurance to all taxpayers, not just those with employer plans. We should incentivize personal, portable insurance plans and give Montanans a better ability to keep coverage they like as they change jobs, retire, or start their own businesses.

Congress should also allow anyone on any type of health plan to own a Health Savings Account and expand what health services and products can be purchased through HSAs. This would empower Montanans, including those in our Medicaid expansion population, with more control over their health care spending.

To protect our most vulnerable people with expensive preexisting conditions, without driving up the cost of insurance for everyone else, Montana needs the ability to form our own high risk pool and adequately fund it. We don’t need more top-down, one-size-fits-all mandates from the federal government, we need the freedom to innovate locally.

At the state level, I’ve been working with Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature to pass several bipartisan bills that make prices more transparent to consumers. More transparency in health care prices and the incentive to shop for services would give Montanans the best value health care options, and create more competition among medical providers to drive down costs.

I’ve been encouraged by the productive dialogue we’ve had with Democrat and Republican legislative leaders and health care industry representatives about preparing for federal health care reform. It’s going to take both sides of the aisle working together to deliver reform that works best for Montana.

I envision a true marketplace for health care that empowers Montanans with more control over their spending, lowers the cost of care, and offers countless options for quality coverage that meets personal needs and budgets. To accomplish that, we need real, not superficial reform, and bipartisan commitment to solving problems.

Matt Rosendale is the Montana state auditor.

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