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By Tim Leeds 

Windy Boy discusses tone of Legislature

 


Windy Boy discusses Legislature

Hearing on car insurance premium bill set for Thursday

Tim Leeds

A senator from the Hi-Line region expressed concern about the tone of this year's Legislature while he discussed one of his bills going before a committee Thursday, a bill to keep credit ratings from driving up car insurance premiums or forcing people to drive without car insurance.

Sen. Jonathan Windy Boy, D-Box Elder, said this morning that he is seeing many proposals to cut programs in an effort to reign in state spending, cuts he said would hurt many struggling to make it through the recession.

He said many of the cuts being proposed are not in the best interests of the state.

"Right now, a lot of issues we'll see during the session — it's going to be hard on the poor people, " Windy Boy added.

He said that he keeps hearing about the deficit the state is said to be facing, but he heard from Gov. Brian Schweitzer and his budget director, David Ewer, Tuesday night that the situation is not as dire as many are saying.

"(Schweitzer said) we can show them we have $310 million in the bank right now, " Windy Boy said.

Windy Boy cited a push by Sen. Dave Lewis, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, to study the possibility of Montana getting out of Medicaid completely.

"That's an unfortunate statement, " Windy Boy said. "The poor people and those who don't have are those who are always getting attacked. "

He said he and other members of the Democratic Caucus heard from the office of Auditor Monica Lindeen about potential impacts on that, and other proposals to try to ban or side-step implementation of the national health care reform passed by Congress last year.

Bills sponsored for Lindeen's office would set regulations, including requirements of insurance companies to report their rates, setting a state-level review process for health insurance, creating a state-level insurance exchange and implementing other provisions such as preventing exclusions for pre-existing conditions for people 19 and younger, revising the coverage for people 26 and younger so they can remain on their parents' plans, and removing dollar limits and lifetime coverage limits.

"(Those bills) would set the groundwork for the state situation, how we will be dealing with (implementing the reform), " Windy Boy said.

He said his bill, scheduled for a hearing Thursday, relates to people struggling through difficult times. Ever since a bill passed in 2005 allowing insurance companies to consider people's credit ratings for setting their car insurance premiums, Windy Boy has tried to overturn that allowance.

This year is the third straight session where he is proposing the law, which failed to pass in 2007 and 2009.

Windy Boy said national studies show credit ratings, if used, can have a tremendous affect on car insurance costs. Bad ratings can drive up premium costs 20 percent to 40 percent, and can end up forcing drivers to pay four or five times as much as people with good credit ratings, he said.

That can lead to punishing people for situations beyond their control, Windy Boy added. People struggling to get through tough times can't afford higher and higher car insurance premiums, and may stop carrying the coverage all together.

Driving without insurance is a crime, with subsequent penalties possibly putting people in jail or prison, he said.

"You are criminalizing average citizens, " Windy Boy said.

A senator from the Hi-Line region expressed concern about the tone of this year's Legislature while he discussed one of his bills going before a committee Thursday, a bill to keep credit ratings from driving up car insurance premiums or forcing people to drive without car insurance.

Sen. Jonathan Windy Boy, D-Box Elder, said this morning that he is seeing many proposals to cut programs in an effort to reign in state spending, cuts he said would hurt many struggling to make it through the recession.

He said many of the cuts being proposed are not in the best interests of the state.

"Right now, a lot of issues we'll see during the session — it's going to be hard on the poor people, " Windy Boy added.

He said that he keeps hearing about the deficit the state is said to be facing, but he heard from Gov. Brian Schweitzer and his budget director, David Ewer, Tuesday night that the situation is not as dire as many are saying.

"(Schweitzer said) we can show them we have $310 million in the bank right now," Windy Boy said.

Windy Boy cited a push by Sen. Dave Lewis, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, to study the possibility of Montana getting out of Medicaid completely.

"That's an unfortunate statement, " Windy Boy said. "The poor people and those who don't have are those who are always getting attacked. "

He said he and other members of the Democratic Caucus heard from the office of Auditor Monica Lindeen about potential impacts on that, and other proposals to try to ban or side-step implementation of the national health care reform passed by Congress last year.

Bills sponsored for Lindeen's office would set regulations, including requirements of insurance companies to report their rates, setting a state-level review process for health insurance, creating a state-level insurance exchange and implementing other provisions such as preventing exclusions for pre-existing conditions for people 19 and younger, revising the coverage for people 26 and younger so they can remain on their parents' plans, and removing dollar limits and lifetime coverage limits.

"(Those bills) would set the groundwork for the state situation, how we will be dealing with (implementing the reform), " Windy Boy said.

He said his bill, scheduled for a hearing Thursday, relates to people struggling through difficult times. Ever since a bill passed in 2005 allowing insurance companies to consider people's credit ratings for setting their car insurance premiums, Windy Boy has tried to overturn that allowance.

This year is the third straight session where he is proposing the law, which failed to pass in 2007 and 2009.

Windy Boy said national studies show credit ratings, if used, can have a tremendous affect on car insurance costs. Bad ratings can drive up premium costs 20 percent to 40 percent, and can end up forcing drivers to pay four or five times as much as people with good credit ratings, he said.

That can lead to punishing people for situations beyond their control, Windy Boy added. People struggling to get through tough times can't afford higher and higher car insurance premiums, and may stop carrying the coverage all together.

Driving without insurance is a crime, with subsequent penalties possibly putting people in jail or prison, he said.

"You are criminalizing average citizens, " Windy Boy said.

 

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