Montana Auditor Monica Lindeen wants the state to have input in the insurance exchange program that will be set up under President Barack Obama’s health care reform act.
Her first choice would have been to have the state set up the exchange, as allowed under the federal law, but Republicans in the state Legislature rejected that idea.
So Lindeen, a Democrat who oversees insurance operations in the state, said in a recent interview that she is scheduling a meeting with the health reform act stakeholders’ council to see if members are interested in using any of the three options the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services has given to states that will not be creating their own health insurance exchange.
Lindeen said she believes it is in the best interests of everyone in Montana to have as much input as possible.
The health care reform act, also called the Affordable Care Act, that Congress passed and Obama signed into law in 2010, requires each state to offer an online insurance exchange.
In the exchange, companies with approved policies, meeting requirements of the exchange, will be offered and consumers will be able to compare the policies, their coverages and costs.
Lindeen said that, although the exchanges are not mandated to be selling the policies until January 2014, in order to have them set and running, with policies approved and ready for marketing months before, the exchanges will have to be set up by next summer.
The state Legislature in its last session killed two bills Lindeen proposed that would have had Montana creating its own exchange.
Now, with the federal government setting up the exchange, Lindeen is looking at how much input Montana can have, and how much it wants to have.
Health and Human Services announced in September that three options were available for the states that would not be crafting their own exchanges from scratch.
One is for the state to manage the plan, working with the insurance companies that want to market policies.
The second is for the state to to provide help to the consumers, providing outreach and education to people and providing assistance in using the exchange.
The third is to use a combination of the first two options.
Lindeen said she will meet with the stakeholders council, which has diverse membership, to discuss what role Montana should play in the creation of the exchange. She said she expects a decision to be made late this month or in November.