Seeley Swan Pathfinder -

By Andi Bourne
Pathfinder 

State Auditor Candidates Vie for Votes

Candidate Forum 2 of 5

 

Nathan Bourne, Pathfinder

SEELEY LAKE - The Seeley Lake Community Council hosted two candidate forums, Sept. 19 and Sept. 26, at the Seeley Lake Community Hall. Candidates for state and local races answered questions from moderator and Council Chair Klaus von Sutterheim and the audience.

All candidates that will appear on the ballot including Republicans, Democrats and Libertarians, were invited.

This week the Pathfinder features the candidates for Supreme Court Justice and State Auditor. Visit http://www.seeleylake.com for coverage of the Governor/Lieutenant Governor; U.S. Congress; Secretary of State; and State Attorney General candidates. Look for the Public Service Commission and Superintendent of Public Instruction coverage in next week's issue.

Absentee voters will receive their ballots Oct. 14. The general election is Nov. 8.

State Auditor: Chief Counsel to current State Auditor Monica Lindeen and former state Senator Jesse Laslovich (D) is running against state Senator Matthew Rosendale (R). Both were in attendance at the Sept. 26 candidate forum.

Rosendale explained that the state auditor is the commissioner for insurance and securities. The office is the consumer advocate for insurance and securities industry taking care of licensing, licensing requirements, oversight for the businesses and make sure there is no crime or fraud committed by those selling the products.

Matthew Rosendale (R) is currently the senate majority leader in the state legislature. He is a rancher between Glendive and Sydney. He is married and has three adult sons.

Prior to running the ranch, Rosendale was a real estate broker and developer. He purchased his parent's "mom and pop firm" and was instrumental in making it into a four office, 65 agents, and multi-million operation.

Rosendale started serving in the legislature in 2010. He was elected to the senate in 2012 and became the senate majority leader in 2014.

In the past six years, Rosendale said he has worked on issues to try to drive down the cost of insurance products for Montanans. However, he has not had any support with his proposed legislation.

Rosendale said Montana is the second highest in the nation for cost of automobile insurance and 10th highest for workmens' compensation. Health care costs are projected to increase 30-60 percent in 2017.

"While the auditor's office does not set any of these rates, the auditor's office does set policy," said Rosendale. "And that policy dramatically impacts the rates of all insurances."

Rosendale believes the state auditor needs to look at the operation and holistic view and try to take into consideration the regulation that is applied to those businesses. He used health care as an example.

"I think that we need to focus our attention on people having good access to health care instead of saying everyone has insurance," said Rosendale. Rosendale explained that many don't have good access to health care because their premiums and deductibles are so high and many have plans they don't want.

Rosendale presented alternatives including primary care provider agreements and health care sharing ministries.

Jesse Laslovich (D) is a fourth generation Montanan originally from Anaconda, Mont. His mother was a teacher and his father was a contractor. Laslovich said he worked for his father who taught him a good work ethic.

Laslovich was elected to the House of Representatives in 2000 and served for four years. He was then elected to the senate serving six years. He worked in the attorney general's office doing consumer protection work before the Montana Supreme Court. He has worked for the state auditor's office for the past seven years.

For Laslovich, the work of the state auditor's office is important to the people of Montana. If someone has an insurance claim that isn't being paid, "we can get that claim paid if the policy is right and the law is on your side."

Laslovich said that in the past seven years with Lindeen, they have averaged $3-6 million in payouts for insurance claims that were initially denied. In cases that Laslovich has been involved in, the office recovered $100 million for victims of fraud in Montana.

Laslovich feels very strongly about access to public lands and will protect this access while serving on the land board.

"[For this office, vote for] someone who has been in the trenches, who has the experience, who can get the job done for you," said Laslovich. "I'm not just standing up here saying I'll do it, I'm saying I know how to do it."

What distinguishes you from your opponent?

Laslovich: Experience and knowledge of the office. Insurance and securities are highly technical. Laslovich said he understands them and will be able to hit the ground running without a learning curve.

Secondly, he has broad bipartisan support being endorsed by groups on both sides of the political aisle and is the only statewide Democrat endorsed by the Montana Chamber of Commerce.

Rosendale: Thinks pursuing solutions to help Montanans find good access to health care is how to solve the problem of rising health care costs versus Laslovich's proposal of the single-payer system.

In regards to the Land Board, "I've bought, sold, developed and managed agriculture, residential and commercial properties my entire adult life. I think it is critically important to have someone on the land board that has some background in land management."

What are you going to do about customers having to pay uninsured motorist insurance on all their vehicles to cover those who are illegally driving without insurance?

Rosendale: The Department of Justice is working on the ability to identify whether someone has insurance or not through their different licensing procedures and stops with local police. Unless there are monitoring devices put on drivers, they will have to pay full insurance for each vehicle they own.

Laslovich: When people are driving without insurance, the deputy and county attorneys need to prosecute those.

This is the first time Laslovich has heard the idea to combine the uninsured coverage as a one-time payment instead of on all vehicles since only one vehicle is driven at a time.

"I will commit to you that right now I'm in the office talking with insurance companies about the possibility of doing that and making that happen. I think that's reasonable."

Laslovich said Rosendale's claim that he called for a single-payer system for health insurance is not true.

"The system is broken and we need to have series discussions about proposed solutions."

What's the penalty for driving without insurance?

Laslovich: This is not the auditor's office responsibility; it is the local law enforcement's and county attorney's. It is a misdemeanor and while someone could spend six months in jail, the only "real" penalty is a fine and court fees.

Rosendale: It is law enforcement's responsibility to enforce this. They have the ability to get electronic confirmation of a driver's insurance. Proof of insurance can be shown and have the charges waived.

"If you are stopped and do not have proof of insurance, you should not be driving. They should make you park that vehicle right then because you are a risk for yourself and for other people."

What do you think the state's responsibility is to clean up the state leased lots that have subpar septic systems located along waterways that were recreational cabins and are now permanent homes?

Rosendale: This is the first time he's heard of this issue

"If the state has allowed someone to get into a situation to where they have a septic or sewage disposal system that is not working properly, then they need to work with them to make sure they have a containment system or provide some kind of low interest loans so they can put a proper facility in to accommodate that septic affluent."

Laslovich: It is critical that the state work with those leaseholders to get the problem fixed. This is the first time he's heard of the issue. It needs to be a collaborative approach between the leaseholder and the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation.

If elected in January, what is job number one from the auditor's office?

Laslovich: While working with the legislature, working towards more pricing transparency for non-emergency procedures so patients know what the costs are before they receive their explanation of benefits.

Secondly, propose legislation to get the burden off the families that use out-of-network air ambulance providers and put it back on the insurance companies.

Rosendale: Bring through the primary care provider agreement that the senate and the house passed in 2015 but the governor vetoed.

"That would provide, starting at the physician's level, a list of services and the cost associated with those services and allow folks to enter agreements with their physicians and then have a monthly or annual retainer fee and have a much less expensive catastrophic insurance."

Also, will work on health care sharing ministries since Montana is the only state where this is not offered.

Closing Statements

Laslovich: Health care insurance already has provider agreements. Patients shouldn't have to pay separately to have access to that provider.

Health care sharing ministries is not insurance and isn't here for good reason. It is false hope that people will have coverage when in fact they won't because people don't pay. "Don't buy the argument that health care sharing ministries will be good for you. They're not because you won't have the ultimate coverage after you've accessed the system."

Laslovich feels he has the experience and judgment to lead the office.

"I want to continue the really important work that I've had the privilege to be a part of come January."

Rosendale: The state auditor's office is responsible for the policies that drive the costs of automobile insurance, workers compensation and health care costs.

"I've worked for the last six years to try to implement different alternatives and options to help drive those costs down and have not had any assistance from the auditor's office or the governor's office. It's time that we have some changes."

The land board manages 5.2 million acres of school trust lands. The revenue generated from those lands funds the bulk of the state's kindergarten through 12th grade education.

"We have to have someone on that board that has some background in proper land management," said Rosendale. He points out there are lands not generating any revenue or only a portion of the possible revenue because of the way they are managed and other lands where the leaseholder is paying exorbitant amounts. There needs to be someone that understands the variables involved in land use and matches them to the land so it is not degraded.

"I support unequivocally access," said Rosendale. "We are going to depend more on our state lands for access because they are closing off access to our federal lands."

 

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