- Associated Press - Monday, February 8, 2016

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - More Montanans are getting medical coverage through the federal health insurance marketplace.

According to the federal government, 58,114 Montana residents enrolled for an insurance plan through the marketplace during the most recent open enrollment period. That’s up 7 percent from the previous year.

Last year, 54,266 Montanans were enrolled for health coverage through the exchange.

Open enrollment for 2016 coverage ended Jan. 31.

“The increase in enrollment in health plans on the federal exchange shows that more and more Montana families are finding the coverage that meets their needs,” said Sanjay Talwani, the spokesman for the Commissioner of Securities and Insurance, Monica Lindeen.

“Overall with these new enrollments, the total number of Montana residents with good health coverage continues to rise, with fewer and fewer people left uninsured,” he said.

However, premiums have gone up.

Last fall, Lindeen, announced higher insurance premiums for about 42,000 Montanans who buy medical coverage through the individual market - although state officials say the higher costs are typically offset by increased tax credits.

Lindeen’s agency said it will again be surveying the state insurers to get data on who has coverage and what coverage gaps remain.

Three private health insurance companies - Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana, PacificSource and the Montana Health CO-OP - sell medical coverage in Montana through the federal exchange.

Montana is one of 37 states without its own health insurance exchange. The state relies on the federal government’s website, healthcare.gov, to provide health coverage under the ACA.

This year, 12.7 million Americans nationwide have enrolled in health insurance plans through government-run marketplaces under the federal Affordable Care Act.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which runs the federal marketplace, Montana last year had the nation’s second highest rate of people re-enrolling in the health exchanges. Statistics aren’t yet available for re-enrollment rates this year.

State officials also point out that 27,000 additional Montanans are getting health coverage through the expansion of Medicaid, on top of the 162,000 state residents who qualified for Medicaid and Healthy Montana Kids prior to the expansion that went into effect at the start of the year.

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