Growing up east of Billings, I didn’t ski. I didn’t know anybody who did. So, for me, the first snow meant a few days of exhilaration and about six months of being cold. I know some skiers now. They always get excited when the snow flies. For them, winter is cold — but it’s fun.
That’s what Obamacare is like. You don’t have to like it — although people do — but it's coming. On Oct. 1, some of Obamacare’s biggest changes will begin. Montana’s online insurance store — the Marketplace — will open for business. This portal was built by the federal government. It is the only source of federal tax credits and discounts that can bring down the cost of health insurance for many Montanans.
There’s a lot of confusion out there about what Obamacare really is.
Beginning Sept. 26, my staff and I are hitting the road. We’ll be putting on hour-long town hall meetings from Billings to Kalispell. I want to hear directly from Montanans. I want Montanans to get honest answers about what Obamacare does, what it doesn’t do, and what it means in our state. And I want to answer your questions.
A lot of the information Montanans get about Obamacare comes from insurance companies who want to sell them products, scammers who want to defraud them or media pundits who have their own spin on things. It’s hard to know what’s really true.
I never had a dog in the Obamacare fight. My job is to make sure that insurance companies do what they tell you they’re going to do and that Montana’s insurance markets are fair and working for all of us. That’s what I did before Obamacare passed. It’s what I’m going to continue to do.
Obamacare is the law. It’s not perfect, but there’s a lot of good in there, too. I want Montanans to know Obamacare well enough to maximize it to their benefit. We need solid information, not spin. We need to know the signs of a scam and who isn’t affected by Obamacare. That’s what I’ll bring to my town halls. Here are some of the details:
• Butte: Sept. 26, noon, Butte-Silver Bow Archives
• Bozeman: Sept. 26, 6 p.m ., MSU Strand Union Building
• Billings: Sept. 27, noon, Riverstone Health; 6 p.m ., MSU-Billings
• Missoula: Sept. 30, noon, St. Patrick Hospital; 6 p.m ., UM UC Center
• Great Falls: Oct. 1, 6 p.m ., Benefis Health System
• Kalispell: Oct. 2, noon, Kalispell Regional Medical Center
Two months ago, I launched a website, http://www.montanahealthanswers.com, which invites Montanans to pose their questions about Obamacare directly to us. We didn’t really know what to expect. Would we get a lot of complaints about the law? Did people already know about it? Did people care?
Since then, we’ve answered hundreds of questions and they have been — like the Montanans who ask them — entirely practical. People want to know how to make Obamacare work for them. They are tired of spin. I am, too.
There’s a crispness in the air now. We might have a few more nice days, but summer is over. I’m already thinking about putting up my storm windows and getting out my studded tires. I don’t like everything about winter, but it pays to be ready.
(Monica J. Lindeen is Montana state auditor and commissioner of securities and insurance.)