State insurance commissioner on state insurance exchange: It sucks!

Montana State Auditor and Insurance Commissioner Matt Rosendale

Sorry to use this unflattering photo of Matt Rosendale, apparently taken at the moment a bat flew into the room, but I ran into legal problems. I wanted to use this one, but I couldn’t get the rights from Dick Tracey. Anyway, we all know from civics class that the Montana State Auditor and Insurance Commissioner is in charge of the state’s insurance exchange. And we all know from Rosendale that Montana’s exchange sucks. The premiums are too high! My own personal insurer, Montana Health Co-Op, raised the rates on its silver plan 24% going into 2018, on account of Trump took away federal CSR payments. That’s bullshit, though, because when they submitted rates back in June, they specifically told Rosendale they’d be fine with or without CSRs. I quote the commissioner:

My department was advised by both companies just months ago, that with or without [cost-sharing reduction] payments, they would be able to honor the rates they provided to us and the public. Today, by their actions, they inform me that was not true.

What a screwjob! If only we had some sort of state official whose job it was to regulate the behavior of insurance companies. The commissioner insists he has no legal authority to hold them to their previously submitted rates, even though A) there was a deadline, and B) they specifically agreed not to do this. It’s no secret that Rosendale, a Republican, opposes the Affordable Care Act that created the exchange in the first place. It’s almost as though letting insurers raise rates and then publicly complaining about it serves three of his interests: his interest in friendly relations with the companies he regulates, his interest in watching Obamacare blow up, and his interest in harnessing the outrage of the ordinary voter.

But does it serve his interest in getting elected to the US Senate? Rosendale is currently the only Republican candidate for Jon Tester’s seat who holds statewide office. The exchange is his identity. Will voters respond to his bold message of “just look at this failed system I’m running?” You can read all about it in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent. We’ll be back tomorrow with Friday links, maybe. I’m doing so much work, you guys.

Policy problem: Should we stop Luis Lang from going blind?

Luis Lang of Charlotte refused to buy health insurance and is now going blind. Photo by Ann Doss Helms

Luis Lang of Charlotte refused to buy insurance and is now going blind. Photo by Ann Doss Helms

Luis Lang has a detached retina and bleeding in his eyes due to complications from diabetes. He needs a series of expensive injections and eye surgery, or he will go blind. A critic of President Obama, he refused to buy health insurance until late February, when he incurred $9,000 in emergency room bills. That’s when he tried to buy a policy through his state’s exchange and learned that he’d missed the 2015 deadline. He and his wife blame Obama and Democrats for passing a flawed, confusing bill. “[My husband] should be at the front of the line, because he doesn’t work and because he has medical issues,” his wife told the Charlotte Observer. “We call it the Not Fair Health Care Act.” First of all, I am sorry for Lang’s health problems, which are scary and bad. Also, he appears to be kind of an asshole. But does that mean we should let him go blind?

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SCOTUS: family-owned corporations don’t need to cover contraception

Aunt Jemima, one of many family business owners whose insurance won't need to pay for birth control

Aunt Jemima, one of many family business owners whose insurance won’t need to pay for birth control

First of all, Aunt Jemima has gotten a lot less racist over the years, but the basic concept remains extremely problematic. Second, and in no way related to pancakes: the Supreme Court has ruled 5-4 that family-owned corporations like Hobby Lobby are exempt from federal laws requiring them to provide comprehensive insurance coverage for certain types of contraception. In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Burwell, the court determined that forcing companies to pay for birth control methods that prevent the implantation of fertilized eggs—which some Christians consider a form of abortion—constituted a violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. So get ready to see more pregnant girls working at Hobby Lobby, as I presume the company’s founders intended.

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Nerds build alternative to that works great



As a self-insured weirdo, I have been looking forward to the state insurance exchange feature of Obamacare for three years now. Unfortunately October 1 brought me no succor, as the federal insurance exchange website,, does not work. Even the way in which it doesn’t work does not work. The cycle of errors and try-again-laters sets in during the account creation phase, which is for some reason the first step. You can’t see the insurance plans in your area until you log in, and you can’t log in until the federal government figures out how to work the internet. Meanwhile, in San Francisco, three 20 year-old programmers have developed an alternative website that works perfectly.

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