Montana’s State Auditor and Insurance Commissioner announced on Thursday that health insurance rates for Montanans using the Affordable Care Act insurance exchange have actually been reduced for the first time.

Spokesman Kyle Schmauch explained the reason for the first time ever premium reductions.

“This is the very first time we’ve seen this,” said Schmauch. “All the insurers on average have premiums that are going down. When was the last time you heard about health insurance premiums going anywhere but up? The reason why is because we finally got put into place a new type of program that is a financial backstop for the insurance companies that Commissioner Rosendale has been trying to get established since he became State Auditor. It’s called reinsurance, and it helps the companies manage their risk and adjust for high cost claims that allows they to retain coverage for high risk patients and those with preexisting conditions.”

Schmauch said at first, Governor Steve Bullock did not approve of the plan, and vetoed the bills both in the 2017 regular and special sessions, saying the program would give the insurance commissioner too much power.

“In the years since then we have seen numerous other states with more competent governors get on board and create their own reinsurance programs,” he said. “We finally talked the governor into it and he signed the reinsurance bill in the 2019 session, and no we are seeing the results of lower health insurance rates from all three carriers.

The Montana Health Co-op is proposing an average decrease of eight percent. There is an average decrease of 13.4 percent for Pacific Source and Blue Cross Blue Shield is proposing an average decrease of 14 percent.

Rosendale does not have the authority to “approve” or “reject” the proposed changes; the State Auditor’s role is confined to reviewing the companies’ proposed rates.

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