Montana health insurance exchange
Three insurers offering policies in Montana exchange
By Louise Norris
November 29, 2013
By November 2, applications had been completed in the Montana exchange for 5205 residents, but only 212 had finalized their plan selections. It’s likely that many of them were unable to do so because of technological problems with HealthCare.gov. Work has been constant on the website ever since it launched, and the expectation is that many people will have been able to select a plan by early December.
Montana’s legislature not only failed to authorize a state-run exchange, it also passed a bill in 2011 to prohibit the creation of an insurance exchange in Montana. While Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer vetoed that bill, neither he nor Monica Lindeen, the state auditor and insurance commissioner, were able to generate legislative or public support for an exchange. Consequently, the federal government is operating the exchange in Montana at Healthcare.gov.
Montana also opted out of expanding Medicaid, but advocacy organizations in the state are working to get the issue on the 2014 ballot in an effort to push the 2015 legislative session to reconsider expanding Montana’s Medicaid program. Supporters of the ballot measure submitted their proposed initiative on November 21.
On November 25, Lindeen announced that Montana would allow health insurance carriers to extend 2013 policies that had been scheduled to terminate at the end of the year, but it was left up to each carrier to decide how to proceed. Insureds who have a policy that is allowed to renew into 2014 also have the option of switching to an exchange plan.
Residents in Montana can select from three health insurance carriers within the Montana exchange: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana, PacificSource and the Montana Health Co-op. The Montana Health Co-op was created under the co-op provisions of the ACA, and was one of the first seven co-ops to receive federal funding in early 2012. The lowest cost bronze plan in the Montana exchange averages $251/month, which is very close to the national average of $249.
Under the federal model, most aspects of the exchange are managed by the federal government. However, states can retain control of “plan management” functions, and Montana opted to do so. Lindeen’s office released final rates for the exchange in mid-August, nothing that the premiums are similar to what they would have been without the ACA. Her office regulates plans that operate on the exchange, as it does for plans sold outside the exchange.
Three organizations in Montana received federal grants in August to serve as navigators and assist residents with the enrollment process: Planned Parenthood, Montana Primary Care Association, and the Montana Health Network. Consumers may contact any of these organizations in order to ask questions or receive personal help with enrollment.
According to Kaiser’s statehealthfacts.org, about 180,000 people — 18 percent of the population — in Montana do not have health insurance.
Montana health insurance exchange links
State Exchange Profile: Montana
The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation overview of Montana’s progress toward creating a state health insurance exchange.
Montana Consumer Assistance Program, Office of the Commissioner of Securities and Insurance
Serves as the state government watchdog for citizens of Montana in the insurance industry
Health Insurance Exchange Page from Montana Commission of Securities and Insurance
Details about how the exchange works, along with legislative history in Montana regarding the exchange creation process.