State Auditor Matt Rosendale was in Havre Thursday, part of a whirlwind tour of northern Montana to educate the public about potential scams by contractors repairing hailstorm damage.
He conducted a public session on the topic at the Havre Inn and Suites. He was in Lewistown Wednesday and will be in Great Falls on Friday.
Before his presentation, Rosendale met with Herald reporters and touched on several topics.
He said his office will be bustling with activity for the next 45 days as his employees work to implement legislation passed by the recently adjourned 66th Montana Legislature, which he lauded as a success.
On Tuesday, Gov. Steve Bullock signed Senate Bill 125, creating a Montana reinsurance program for the individual health insurance market. The law will reduce insurance rates by up to 20 percent for nearly 55,000 people, Rosendale said.
He’s also been heartened by the bipartisan support Senate Bill 71 received and is hopeful Gov. Steve Bullock will sign it within the next week.
That bill is intended to reduce the price of prescription drugs for Montanans by up to $8 million a year. It would do so by regulating how insurance companies contract with Pharmacy Benefit Managers, the middlemen between pharmacies and drug manufacturers accused of playing a major role in the high cost of prescription drugs.
Despite its bipartisan support, Rosendale said he isn’t certain the governor will sign SB 71, which he said is the only legislative measure that would truly affect prescription drug prices.
The governor received the bill on Monday. As of Thursday afternoon, Bullock had 268 bills awaiting his signature or veto, a spokesperson for the governor said.
When asked his plans for the 2020 election season, Rosendale said he is too busy to worry about his political future. He said politics will have to wait until after the 45 days needed to complete the work set out by the Legislature.
Rosendale’s four-year term as auditor is set to expire in 2020, and he is considered a potential candidate to succeed Bullock, who is barred from seeking a third term. Secretary of State Corey Stapleton and Attorney General Tim Fox already have announced their candidacies and U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte is rumored to be ready to declare.
Given that, the Helena talk goes, Rosendale might opt for Gianaforte’s vacated House seat.
But Rosendale said that talk will have to wait until his office finishes its post-adjournment tasks.
His work, his job, is the reason he was in Havre Thursday.
The hailstorms that often hit Montana can cause significant damage, leaving homeowners and car owners open to all kinds of exploitation. That’s why Rosendale began his road trip with insurance providers and contractors to warn people of the dangers.
“99.9 percent of our Montana contractors are good actors,” he said. “And some of the out-of-state contractors are fine, too.”
But uninformed customers can fall prey to unscrupulous out-of-state contractors.
“We want to share information on how to make sure consumers know what to look out for,” he said.
Among other things, Rosendale said, he would like to lengthen the amount of time insurance companies allow for customers to get needed repairs for hail damage. Pressed by time limits set by insurance companies, consumers often are forced to use out-of-state contractors. If they had more time, that could open more opportunities for local contractors to do the work.
The crush of business after a storm often means that local contractors are booked. Giving people more time might mean the more reliable local contractors could do more of the work, Rosendale said.
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