Montanans can be thankful for Affordable Care Act

More than 100,000 Montanans are uninsured, including nearly 20 percent of family farmers and ranchers.
Fortunately, the Affordable Care Act has already begun fulfilling a long overdue commitment to making health care accessible and affordable for everyone.  Provisions of the Act already ban coverage denials for children due to pre-existing conditions, prohibit insurance companies from dropping coverage if you get sick, provide certain preventative care coverage for free, end lifetime insurance caps, and extend coverage of children under their parents' policy to age 26.  These provisions are making a difference in the lives of Montanans right now.

We applaud Commissioner Monica Lindeen's commonsense leadership on moving forward with state implementation in a timely manner. Her office has drafted several bills for the 2011 state legislative session that create a framework for the Montana Health Benefit Exchange - a one-stop shop insurance marketplace for individuals and small businesses to compare rates, benefits and quality among health plans offered by private companies.

Montana, however, is one of four states that lack the power to review insurance premium rate increases and disapprove increases if they're unreasonable. Providing the Commissioner this authority is necessary to ensure that the Affordable Care Act is effective, especially the Act's provision requiring that insurance companies spend 80% of insurance premium dollars for small business and individual plans, and 85% for large company plans, on health care expenses as opposed to administrative costs.

 Moreover, Lindeen and her office have worked tirelessly to educate Montanans about a new high risk insurance pool for people who are uninsured and have been denied coverage based on a pre-existing condition. Health-related bankruptcies are a reality in Montana, with 900 families affected in 2008 alone. Interim measures like the high risk pool are providing families coverage until the insurance exchange takes effect in 2014, at which time no one can be denied insurance based on a pre-existing condition.

 Montana is providing leadership nationally and ensuring that Montanans benefit from the Affordable Care Act as much as possible.