Governor Steve Bullock in the Governor's Reception Room in the State Capitol.

Governor Steve Bullock in the Governor's Reception Room in the State Capitol.

Thom Bridge,thom.bridge@helenair.com

A bipartisan group of governors, including Montana Democrat Steve Bullock, are urging Congress to “quickly pass legislation to stabilize our private health insurance markets and make quality health insurance more available and affordable.”

The letter comes after action from President Donald Trump last week said he would immediately end cost-sharing reduction payments made to insurance companies who give subsidies to people who buy coverage on the exchange mandated by the Affordable Care Act.

About 63,800 Montanans buy health insurance on the exchange. About 43 percent, roughly 25,000, benefit from the subsides, called cost-sharing reduction payments. Average payments are $1,147.

After the announcement last week, one of the three insurers who sell on the exchange in Montana said they could not offer plans for 2018 if they were not allowed to raise their rates. After an initial denial, both the Montana Health Co-op and PacificSource raised their rates. It also appears two U.S. senators have reached a deal to continue to provide the subsidies, though that is far from assured.

Last week Bullock criticized the end of the payments and an executive order by Trump allowing the expansion of short-term plans as a “reckless stroke of a pen."

Other governors who signed the letter include Govs. Hickenlooper, D-Colo.; Kasich, R-Ohio; Walker, I-Alaska; Wolf, D-Pa.; McAuliffe, D-Va.; Bel Edwards, D-La.; Sandoval, R-Nev.; Baker, R-Mass.; and Scott, R-Vt.

They wrote: “Stabilizing insurance markets is one of the primary areas where Congress can take action to ensure that consumers have affordable health care options. As governors, we deal with real-life impacts of actions taken in Washington, D.C."

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State Bureau Reporter for The Independent Record.

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