HELENA — Meeting with President Barack Obama on Thursday, state Insurance Commissioner Monica Lindeen said she discussed Montana’s collaborative effort to enroll people into health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act before last month’s deadline.
Lindeen told Montana reporters later by conference call that she had discussed her office’s efforts to visit all seven Indian reservations and “some of the challenges that we see implementing the health care law in Indian Country.” She also mentioned her office’s work with navigators to help people enroll.
The president-elect of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, Lindeen and 42 other state insurance commissioners met with Obama for more than an hour in the White House. Joining them were Vice President Joe Biden and departing Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius.
She said the White House invited insurance commissioners to meet with Obama and discuss the next steps of implementing the Affordable Care Act, also referred to as “Obamacare.”
“It was a good conversation,” Lindeen said. “He appreciated the good work that insurance commissioners are doing all over the country in dealing with different political views.”
In response to a question, Lindeen said she last met with Obama three years ago. She added that she and her staff were in communication on a daily basis with the Department of Health and Human Services staff.
Lindeen said Obama visited with the commissioners about some issues they see moving forward, such as rate review and setting rates and open enrollment in 2015.
“He also understands that insurance commissioners are doing God’s work to try to make this thing work,” Lindeen said.
Discussions took place about insurance premiums and the commissioners reviewing insurance rates, he said.
“The president was trying to impress upon us his desire that we are scrutinizing these premium increases with a fine-toothed comb,” Lindeen said. “He has a lot riding on it, and every insurance commissioner does too.”
But Lindeen added that insurance commissioners “also understand that insurance companies must be solvent too.”
Federal officials mentioned that 35 percent of those enrolling nationally under the Affordable Care Act are under age 35, which Lindeen said is better than early statistics showed.
Lindeen said her office hasn’t yet received any of these statistical breakdowns for Montana.
The last numbers that Lindeen reviewed showed Montana was around fifth among the state in sign-ups per capita.
“We’re looking forward to getting the final numbers and analyzing them,” she said.
Her office released this statement from Lindeen after the meeting:
“Officials at the highest level understand what we in Montana have known for decades: states are better at regulating insurance and protecting folks 1,800 miles away. When Montanans have a problem with their insurance company, they need help today — not when their message has moved through a large central bureaucracy.”