State Unveils Revamped Health Insurance Website

New website launched just in time for open enrollment

By Justin Franz

HELENA — Just in time for open enrollment, the state Insurance Commissioner’s office has unveiled a retooled website to help Montanans navigate health insurance options.

The second open-enrollment period to sign up for health insurance on the federal exchange as part of the Affordable Care Act begins on Saturday and runs through Feb. 15.

Montanahealthanswers.com will help Montanans find unbiased and understandable information, Insurance Commissioner Monica Lindeen’s spokeswoman Jennifer McKee said. “Buying insurance and making changes to an existing plan can be intimidating, and we want Montanans to know that we’ve done a lot of the research already,” McKee said.

About 80 percent of those who signed up in Montana in the first round of enrollment qualified for tax credits which lower insurance costs, she also said.

“In a state where we have somewhat lower incomes, there’s going to be more people who qualify,” McKee said of tax credits. “It’s worth checking out.”

The state recently did an analysis on insurance costs in Montana and for individuals and small groups that the costs are increasing an average of just over 1 percent, which McKee said is very low.

“Premium costs and health care costs were going up before the Affordable Care Act,” she said. “But we certainly would not make the case that everyone is a winner. Some will see increases, but it is lower than it’s been in a long time.”

The state site features a health insurance buyer’s guide written by Montana’s insurance experts with information people will need when they look to buy health insurance on the federal exchange, healthcare.gov.

People should plan to spend at least a couple hours researching and buying health insurance, McKee said. The state site also offers a phone number and place to send questions that will be answered by state experts.

In 2014, about 30,000 people in the state gained health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. Nearly 17 percent of people in the state remain uninsured, McKee said.