Seeley Swan Pathfinder -

By Henry Netherland

County reminds residents of health care enrollment deadline


December 10, 2020

MISSOULA COUNTY - Missoula County updated attendees about 2021 open enrollment for the Health Insurance Marketplace during a virtual press conference on Wednesday, Dec. 2. The deadline to enroll is Dec. 15.

Olivia Riutta is the outreach manager for Montana Primary Care Association as well as an author for Cover Montana, a project under said association. The project website provides information and “enrollment assisters” to help those interested choose what coverage works best for their situation.

Riutta said Cover Montana and health care providers across the state have received grant funding from the Montana Health Department to ensure that enrollment capacity can reach communities during “these really unprecedented times.”

She shared information from the Montana Healthcare Foundation that stated 41% of Montanans get their health insurance through their employers. People getting insurance through Medicare or Medicaid make up 44%. The uninsured make up over 10% while the remaining 5% have gone through individual providers.

Josh Slotnick, Missoula County Commissioner board chair, said as the deadline approaches, Montanans are reaching a critical time.

“We want to make sure that everyone who needs health insurance gets health insurance [and] that everyone in Montana is covered this year especially as Olivia pointed out, due to the pandemic, so many people lost their jobs,” Slotnick said. “And as you saw on Olivia’s pie chart, most people get their health insurance through their job, so when their job goes away, they are left to their own designs.”

In response to those who claim enrolling in the Marketplace would cost too much, he said that nine out of 10 Montanans qualify for a tax credit that reduces monthly premiums and the overall total cost. In addition, nearly a third of residents who apply qualify for cost share reduction.

According to the Montana Healthcare Foundation, in 2013, the uninsured rate was at its highest, 20% before the first enrollment period began. It reached its lowest in 2016 at 7.4% before incrementally rising the years following. In 2020 the rate is estimated to be between 9.3% and 11.1%.

Riutta said in addition to seeing the overall uninsured rate increase, the uninsured rate for Montana children has also been growing even before COVID. She said their organization is reminding families that Healthy Montana Kids is a “great option” for this open enrollment period and that with one application on, families can find out what everyone qualifies for.

She encourages people to enroll in a Marketplace plan that is eligible for financial help and includes “robust consumer protections.” She warns about using general Google search results to find affordable insurance rather than

“Some of these plans are short term plans that might sound really good on the surface,” Riutta said. “They might have a nice price tag, but they don’t provide the same consumer protections that we need and we’ve come to expect. Things like the 10 essential health benefits, making sure your plan covers the ways in which we access care, like no pre-existing condition exclusions.”

She said one way to determine the best form of coverage is to speak with a certified application counselor like Laura Bird of All Nations Health Center. Bird said she determines her client’s eligibility for insurance based on factors such as household size, income and age. She then answers questions regarding coverage basics and application procedures so clients are able to pick a plan that works best for them. Her services are free and confidential.

For more information visit, call Ag Worker Health and Services at  (800) 813-4492 or All Nations Health Center at (406) 304-5834.


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