Shane Morigeau, a citizen of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, serves in the Montana State Legislature, representing House District 95. He is seeking the Democratic nomination for Montana state auditor. Photo courtesy Shane Morigeau

Shane Morigeau: We should do more to protect Montanans

Shane Morigeau, a citizen of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, is a Democratic candidate for State Auditor in Montana.

Over the last few weeks we have seen numerous efforts brought forth to protect Montanans during these trying times. Many Montanans are stepping up to help one another and Governor Steve Bullock has taken measures to provide coverage for uninsured Montanans who need coronavirus testing, and if necessary, treatment.

We also saw the four major health insurance companies in Montana step up to expand telehealth coverage to combat COVID-19 and waive customer costs for coronavirus testing. But is this really enough? In this time of financial uncertainty and pandemic, all insurance companies, not just health insurance companies, should consider premium holidays (waivers) or extensions for those in need.

As we continue to see layoffs throughout the state, more Montanans will lack the funds to pay bills and put food on the table for their families. As layoffs continue, some Montanans will struggle to keep up with their insurance premiums, and we will see more gaps in coverage. When this happens, financial ruin is only a single accident or illness away, putting even more lives in jeopardy.

I recognize that in the face of this public health crisis, companies have voluntarily done some good work in Montana — especially on health insurance. But we need to take further and decisive action to protect our Montana families’ health and livelihoods. The fact is, many families will struggle to pay monthly premiums like home and auto. Gaps in coverage for these families could be devastating should the worst happen.

We can’t afford to see uninsured rates rise in the middle of a public health emergency. A premium holiday or extension for all types of insurance coverage would go a long way for those who need to get back on their feet when it’s over. This is especially true for those who need access to essential health services throughout the crisis.

Insurance companies need to recognize this, and move immediately to develop a plan to provide premium holidays or extensions to families in need during this crisis.

As State Auditor, I will address these issues head-on, and I will fight for Montana families. I’ll work with both our insurance companies and our state and federal partners to ensure all Montanans are protected from financial ruin. We need to do everything we can to ensure Montanans are protected from catastrophic events as they unfold, and help working families get back on their feet when things return to normal.

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