State: Number of uninsured drops by 15 percent

Associated PressJuly 15, 2014 

— About 30,000 more Montana residents are enrolled in a health insurance plan than were before the Affordable Care Act enrollment period took place, state officials said Tuesday.

State Insurance Office Deputy Commissioner Adam Schafer told a legislative panel his office surveyed the state's largest insurance companies to learn whether the number of uninsured decreased after the federal health care overhaul.

The total number of uninsured people in the state was estimated at 195,000 in 2013. With 30,000 of those people now enrolled in a health insurance plan, Schafer said that represents a 15.4 percent reduction in the total number of uninsured.

Now, only 16.9 percent of Montanans remain uninsured.

Schafer presented the preliminary findings to the Economic Affairs Interim Committee and said they should have final data in the coming weeks.

Jesse Laslovich, chief attorney with the state's Insurance Office, said the increase in enrollees is good news for Montana.

"What's significant is we have more people who are insured, 30,000 people who have coverage this year who didn't before," he said. "Because we have more covered, hospitals will pay less in charity care, people will have lower premiums if they got subsidies and they'll now have access to health care other than emergency room only."

Committee Chairman Sen. Bruce Tutvedt, R-Kalispell, said the online health care marketplace seems to be working.

"You can get on and sign up and it seems to be working well," he said.

Schafer also said Montanans will have more plan choices on the exchange starting in January.

"We have three insurers on the exchange and a fourth has applied," he said. "It's pretty significant having four insurers from which to select insurance."

The first year's open enrollment season for the health insurance exchanges closed on March 31. Most people still without insurance at this point will face a tax penalty.

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