Lindeen promotes the positives of health reform for women

Billings Gazette

by Cindy Uken

It was a small group dwarfed by a thunderous message aimed specifically at women: Health care reform has positively affected their lives and those of their families.

That was the message that state Auditor Monica Lindeen delivered to about 20 women gathered Tuesday in Billings for the second in a series of meetings across the state sponsored by Montana Women Vote. The first was held in Missoula last week; the third will be in Great Falls on Wednesday. As auditor, Lindeen oversees securities and insurance.

In a series of bullet points, Lindeen pointed out what women get from health care reform:

  • Dependent children will be able to remain on their parents’ policies until their 26th birthday, unless they get coverage through their employers.
  • Children with pre-existing conditions cannot be denied coverage.
  • All new insurance plans will be required to cover preventive health care and screenings, such as pap smears and mammograms, without any cost-sharing such as co-payments.
  • Insurance companies will be prohibited from canceling their policies if they get sick.

“These are all very positive reforms that put women and their doctors in control of their own health care and that of their families,” Lindeen said. “By eliminating pre-existing condition exclusions for children, the new law allows parents to take care of their children’s health needs at a reasonable cost.”

Each of the provisions she mentioned went into effect Sept. 23.

“Everyone understands our current health care system is unsustainable,” Lindeen said. “These health insurance reforms are one step toward changing the current system. It will be important for consumers to educate themselves about health care so they can become better consumers about health care products. It will also be important for producers to change how they do business to bring down the cost of health care.”

The good news does not stop there, she said. Her office has received a $1 million federal grant to create a Montana Health Benefit Exchange where individuals and businesses could “shop” for their insurance, she said. The money is part of a $49 million grant to states to conduct research and planning essential to improve the health insurance marketplace and establish exchanges. Under the new federal law, all states must have an exchange operational by Jan. 1, 2014.

“My goal is to create an exchange that will provide low-cost, easy-to-buy insurance for Montana families,” Lindeen said.

Montana Women Vote is a coalition of nonprofit organizations working to educate and mobilize low-income women and their allies to participate in the democratic process. Member organizations address issues of economic justice, violence against women, environmental health, reproductive rights and human rights.

“When low-income women don’t vote, not only are they left out of the democratic process as individuals, but the issues critical to their lives are not represented,” said Kayla Miller, the Billings coordinator for Montana Women Vote.