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Health

Bill Targets Insurance Industry Anti-Competitive Practices

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Montana Republican Senator Steve Daines met with Billings dentists Wednesday to highlight a bill he’s introduced to reform rules for health insurance companies.

Dr. Jake Taylor, who owns a small dental practice in Billings, thinks the bill could change the dynamic between insurance companies and patients.

“If insurance companies have to compete more and they don’t have quite the monopoly, it’ll force them to

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Credit Kayla Desroches / YPR
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Dr. Jake Taylor (right) at round table with Sen. Steve Daines

improve the patient experience,” said Taylor. “They won’t sit and deny automatically on certain things. At least, I don’t believe. You’ll see them have to show the patient that they care about them and not just a bottom line.”

Right now, insurers are exempt from portions of federal anti-trust laws, which means they can share some financial information among themselves. Daines and some other senators say that hampers competition which would, in theory, force insurers to offer better deals to attract and keep patients.

The bill aims to put a stop to price fixing and behind-the-door discussions between insurers.

The same bill, with a different sponsor, passed the house in 2017 and stalled in the senate. Daines believes the Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act has a better chance this year.

“The problem we had in the senate was this bill was never introduced, that was the problem,” said Daines. “So, the house had the bill. They passed it. They couldn’t find a senator to introduce it, and I’m not quite sure why.”

Daines says Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont is co-sponsoring the bill, and it’s found wide-ranging support from both parties.