Montana’s Insurance Commissioner Monica Lindeen is on the road this week, answering questions and clearing up myths about the Affordable Care Act. She’s also helping people find out about the new ways they can save money under the Affordable Care Act, which goes into place today. Lindeen is to be commended for being the only elected leader in Montana with the backbone to go out on the stump to clear up the myths about Obamacare, which is still very unpopular because of all the misinformation spewed by the TEA Party.
The TEA Party has poured millions into scaring seniors and Veterans with bogus claims about how the new health care reforms would take away their Medicare or VA coverage. (Which is a pretty despicable way to win elections, if you think about it.) So Lindeen is driving from town to town, reassuring audiences packed with worried seniors and families. She’s explaining that anyone who has Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, Healthy Montana Kids, or health care through their job, isn’t impacted and doesn’t even have to do anything. She’s also explaining that the costs for an average health plan you can get at the new “marketplace” will be lower than they have been. (It’s just a website to make buying insurance easier).
Lindeen points out that insurance costs in Montana will be lower than they are now on average, and explains the new protections in place that make it harder for insurance companies to screw people over. She’s even launched a new website, montanahealthanswers.com where you can ask any question you’d like and get straight answers.
Yet even as the truth is starting to get out about the consumer protections that are in place–and savings that are now available for more than 3/4 of Montanans, the stream of lies continues. TEA Party legislator Art Wittich (R-Bozeman) has poked his head out of his bunker to spread fear and misinformation about health care reform. In a guest opinion in the Great Falls Tribune Wittich claimed that the new reforms will make health care more expensive.
In fact, the cost of insurance under the new law will be lower in Montana than it is now for an average plan. Here’s a list of average “premiums” or monthly costs for insurance in Montana and other states.
Anyone can now go to the marketplace at healthcare.gov to find out what kind of plans are out there and whether they qualify for a price break or are eligible for Medicaid at the Marketplace, healthcare.gov. However, since Wittich and crew voted to bar the working poor from getting Medicaid, there aren’t many people who will be able to access it–even though the federal government would have paid for 100% of the bill for three years and would always pay at least 90% of the cost.
Wittich also tried to downplay the problem of the large numbered of uninsured Montanans. He’s claiming that only 15% of Montanans lack insurance instead of 22%, which has been published by multiple sources/studies.
Wittich even had the audacity to claim that the Affordable Care Act “doesn’t address the problem” of people who visit emergency rooms instead of seeking less costly preventative care, which drives up the cost of health care for everyone. In fact, it was Wittich himself who lead the charge in the Montana legislature to block access to low-cost preventative and primary care for 70,000 working poor Montanans when he blocked federal funds for the Medicaid expansion in Montana. It is because of Wittich and his fellow GOP lawmakers that emergency room visits will still be a problem. Many people will have no other choice but to wait until they are sick enough to risk imminent loss of life or limb to be admitted to an emergency room without paying up front. If Montana had the Medicaid expansion, 91% of Montanans would be able to get preventative health care. Waiting until they’re about to die and going to the emergency room wouldn’t be their only option. You can sign a petition in support of the Medicaid expansion to indicate your support.
Wittich also left out some pretty important information from his opinion piece– the latest industry report showing that states that denied the Medicaid expansion would lose billions in federal funding, and medical employers $1 billion for programs that partially compensate them for care for people who can’t pay. (This report doesn’t mesh well with the TEA Party message, which as far as I can tell is “Obama BAD, Hulk SMASH.”)
Of course, this is to be expected from Wittich, who lied about health care during the legislative session too. Wittich, who is among the state’s most angry TEA partiers, was a lawyer for the ultra-shady American Tradition Partnership (which ignored Montana Law on the way to buying house and Senate seats for Tea partiers and printed fake newspapers with Governor Bullock’s photo in a line-up with sex offenders). Wittich is also a featured speaker and former Attorney for the Koch brothers funded group Americans for Prosperity.
The Health Insurance Marketplace is open
Lee Newspapers had a great in-depth insert over the weekend, which you should definitely check out. This article explains the basics of the new protections and how to find out if they can help you save money. More than 75% of Montanans are expected to be eligible for some kind of price break–people who earn between 100-400% of the federal poverty level. You can use this calculator to find out if you’re eligible for savings:
You can now enroll in a health insurance plan that covers essential benefits, pre-existing conditions, and preventive services. Most people who apply for coverage will qualify for lower costs of some kind in the Marketplace. If you are someone who would have qualified for Medicaid in Montana if the legislature had voted for expansion, you won’t have to pay the individual mandate–you can get an application for the affordability exemption on healthcare.gov
- Apply now. Start your application for coverage in the Health Insurance Marketplace. You can apply for private insurance, CHIP (Healthy Montana Kids), and Medicaid, all at the same time, all with one application.
4 things you can do before you apply
- Find out how the Marketplace works.
- Learn how to choose the health insurance plan that’s right for you.
- Get personal help applying for health coverage.
- Ask any questions you have about the Marketplace by phone or live web chat-both are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.