While Montana has one of the nation’s lowest head counts, it ranked a close second behind New Hampshire in terms of the highest rate of 2015 public exchange re-enrollment among 34 states that direct their residents to Healthcare.gov.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services noted recently that 59% of 54,266 Big Sky Country residents signed up for a second straight year compared with 60% of 53,005 Granite State residents. In addition, 85% of those Montanans received a federal tax credit that that reduced their average monthly premium 66% to $116 from $346 before such assistance.

Also see: NAHU, AHIP to offer broker training for federal health exchange

“In rural states like Montana that had little insurance competition and significant numbers of people eligible for tax credits, the [online] marketplace provides new and affordable options,” observes Trish Riley, executive director of the nonpartisan National Academy for State Health Policy.

Jennifer McKee, communications director for Montana’s Commissioner of Securities and Insurance Monica Lindeen, told The Great Falls Tribune she “was struck by how there was good representation of folks buying in Healthcare.gov all over the state.” McKee also was quoted as saying 2015 rates barely moved thanks to competition among Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana, PacificSource, the Montana Health CO-OP and Assurant.

But it remains to be seen whether Montanans will benefit in 2016. For example, more than 7,000 Assurant customers in the state will need to seek other coverage now that the carrier plans to pull out of Healthcare.gov after this year. Moreover, the remaining insurers reportedly have sought double-digit rate hikes after reporting huge losses on individual marketplace policies.

At the other end of the public exchange re-enrollment spectrum, Louisiana and South Carolina were found to have the lowest rates with 42% apiece.

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