State Auditor shares thoughts on healthcare solutions: Matt Rosendale visits Lewistown

By: 
Charlie Denison
Reporter

Montana State Auditor Matt Rosendale takes a call and looks over some notes during a quick visit to Lewistown Friday morning.
Photo by Charlie Denison

Montana State Auditor and Commissioner of Security Matt Rosendale made an appearance in Lewistown last week, attending the Fergus Farm Mutual annual meeting and visiting the News-Argus, where he was interviewed about his thoughts on health care in Montana.

The former legislator from the Glendive area is working with the federal government to make some changes to the current healthcare plan.

“I’m not asking for a lot of things,” Rosendale said. “I’m more requesting barriers be removed so we can develop our own policies, plans and programs.”

Rosendale said he wants to see insurers offer a basic insurance plan that’s cost-effective, reasonably priced and available for a much broader range of people, and he wants to see a product developed that more people want to purchase.

“Right now, in the health insurance market… everybody doesn’t get treated the same,” Rosendale said. “We’ve got 50 percent to 75 percent of the marketplace using Medicare or Medicaid, and half of them are exempt from policies that give us the ability to gather data or get premium taxes. Continuing to carve out these exemptions makes it difficult to develop a plan that’s consistent.”

This is why Rosendale said he wants the federal government to remove barriers and have the insurers develop a “basic plan that everybody can purchase.”

“We’d have access to a broader range of contributors,” Rosendale said. “Then we can direct these funds into our high risk pool, which has a broad base of insurance policies to ensure it has enough money to cover people with expensive preexisting conditions.”

This can be done, Rosendale said, by identifying high-risk and preexisting conditions.

“By doing this, we should be able to minimize the number of people in the pool and allow everyone else to accommodate their health care needs, either through a plan or another option,” Rosendale said. “We have got to stop looking at health care as just health insurance, because it’s not.”

Rosendale said some other options for health insurance include Christian Healthcare Ministries (a nonprofit, voluntary cost-sharing program), and he also believes it’s important to have primary care provider agreements.

Health care is a complicated business, Rosendale said, which is why Rosendale’s representative Kyle Schmauch was asked by the News-Argus to clarify and expound on some aspects of it.

“Direct primary care is primarily designed to handle people’s day-to-day health care needs,” Schmauch said. “[Rosendale] simply wants to give Montanans the choice to have these options, not mandate that any Montanans use one form of health care access over another.”

This has been a passion of Rosendale’s for years. In 2015, Rosendale even worked on a legislative bill regarding direct primary agreements, which he said passed “overwhelmingly” in the House and Senate but was vetoed by Governor Steve Bullock. The bill is being looked at again this session.

“[Senate Bill 100] gives folks the ability to say ‘I’m going to deal with my day-to-day medical needs through a price list that is developed by the physician’ and then, if I have a major medical issue, I’ve got a major medical policy over here that is much more reasonably priced than trying to have this comprehensive plan that everybody is mandated to have right now.”

“[Rosendale] is explaining one potential health care option for Montanans; to have a direct primary care provider who takes care of their day-to-day health care needs (checkups, preventative health screenings, shots, etc.), then have an affordable major medical insurance policy that would cover them in case an expensive major medical problem came up,” Schmauch said in an e-mail.

 

Transparency and incentives

At the end of the day, Rosendale said he’d like to see the cost curve go down for the actual services people are receiving. This can be done, he added, through transparency and incentivizing shopping for options.

“Senate Bill 96, sponsored by Cary Smith (R-Billings), mandates transparency through the insurers and through the providers, and it puts a provision in there to incentivize people to actually shop around and find better prices.”

Rosendale said there is much support for transparency on both sides of party lines, but that’s not the case with incentives.

“Let’s put it this way: the governor doesn’t have the confidence in the free market system that I do,” Rosendale said.

In Rosendale’s eyes, the free market has been proven to work “for millennia.”

“If you give people the opportunity to identify where value is, then they do it,” he said. “If you limit their selections, then they can’t shop.”

This is why Rosendale was opposed to the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”).

“What we tried to say through Obamacare is ‘we’re going to make vanilla, and you’re going to like it. If you don’t like it, you’re going to learn to like it.’ That’s not how our country was founded and it is not how to improve the service or the price of any product whatsoever, or service, for that matter.”

Another issue Rosendale has with the ACA is the amount of authority it gives the Government. He would prefer less government and more options.

“I don’t think the government – whether state or federal – should be coming in and saying, ‘Here is what you need to sell. I know better than you what product you need to be selling.’ That is not how to improve the quality or the price of any service. You allow the marketplace to identify what consumers want, and they will speak very clearly and very loudly.”

And Rosendale believes the people have spoken, and they do not want this current health plan.

 “I’ve had people tell me their insurance premiums went up so far they can’t pay them anymore,” Rosendale said. “They have to make a decision between paying their mortgage or paying their health insurance. That is unacceptable to me.”

Rosendale said he wants Montanans to have a choice, and he will fight for them.

“People have to have the freedom to select a health care system that respects their budget, their personal health care needs and their personal choices,” he said. “Everybody’s choices are going to be different, but they need to be empowered. It’s not up to me as an elected official to tell them how to address their needs.”

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