The state now can give your health insurance a check-up. A new law allows the state's insurance commissioner to review health premiums.
Talking with folks in downtown Billings, many said dealing with health insurance at all is just a headache.
"It's absolutely hard to get, very expensive," said Gary Temple.
"I'm very happy to have insurance, yes," said Shane Richards.
"If it's more cost effective for me on a monthly basis, I would definitely be for it," said Rebecca Flores.
But the new Montana law requires health insurance companies to send their rate details to the state insurance commissioner's office for review which can weigh in on whether an increase in health insurance rates is fair or not. Steven Bentley, chief financial officer and senior vice president of finance with Billings based Avitus group, said it keeps increases in check.
"Hopefully this law will point out when we're seeing excessive changes take place, and that should help people when they're shopping," said Bentley.
Montana was one of two remaining states that didn't have laws like the new one in place. Bentley said without the added oversight, insurance rates have gone up.
"In South Dakota, which had this review capability, they went into negotiations with that insurance company, reduced it down to I think 6.9%. In Montana, where no review took place, the 15% increase took place," said Bentley.
He added the new law won't stop the cost of insurance from going up, but it does give the state leverage to negotiate smaller rate increases, and requires justification for any jump in rates.
"The statute does not provide rate control to the insurance commissioner or anybody else in Montana. Insurance companies are still allowed to set their rates as they choose to set them. But what it does provide for is more illumination," said Bentley.
Bentley added that many of the rules will change once the new healthcare law kicks in next year. The Avitus group is hosting a seminar to help small business owners learn all about it later this month. For more information, just click on Connections.