03/05/2020 - Havre Daily News
State Auditor Matt Rosendale visited Havre Wednesday to talk to community members about what he did as state auditor and what his plans are for Congress.
Rosendale filed in February with the Montana Secretary of State’s office as a Republican candidate in the House race, running for the spot being vacated by Rep. Greg Gianforte, who is running for governor.
So far, Rosendale faces Debra Lamm of Livingston, a former state representative and former chair of the Montana Republican Party; Lewis and Clark County Republican Central Committee Chair Joe Dooling; John Evankovich of Butte, and Mark McGinley of Dillon in the Republican primary.
Republican Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton has announced he will run for the seat, but had not filed as a candidate as of this morning.
Gianforte, who filed as a candidate for governor Wednesday, faces Montana Attorney General Tim Fox and state Sen. Al Olszewski of Kalispell in the Republican primary for governor.
President Donald Trump endorsed Rosendale for the U.S. seat in early February.
Rosendale told the group in the Duck Inn Vineyard Room Wednesday about his work as auditor.
“The state auditor doesn’t actually have any audit functions, just to clarify that, so what my job truly is, is the commissioner of security and insurance,” Rosendale said. “I provide oversight and regulation for the entire insurance industry from property, casualty, homeowners, automobile to the big one which is our health care and health insurance. Also, I provide oversight and regulatory authority for the securities industry here in the state.”
He said when he began campaigning for the state auditor he made promises which included reducing the cost of health care, reducing regulations, scaling down the scope and size of government, reduce the cost of that office.
“I’m here to tell you that we can break the report card and see that is exactly what we have done,” Rosendale said. “It’s taken a couple years for everything to start going into action and we immediately started having a reduction in the worker’s compensation insurance, but a lot of that is attributed to the work we did in 2011, when I was still in the Legislature.”
He said he is continuing to promote a safe work environment for employees.
Nothing reduces the cost of worker’s compensation insurance faster and greater than not getting hurt, he added.
“The health care issue we all know has been enormous across the state and across the nation. We have had these out-of-control increases in the premiums, and so when I got in, I said ‘Look, we’ve got to focus on making sure people have access to high quality, affordable health care,’ and sometimes that is going to be insurance and sometimes that’s not going to be insurance, and the more things people have to select from just like any other product or service the more we can start driving those costs down,” he said.
He said he worked on bringing the Christian health ministry plan Medi-Share back into the state of Montana after it had been removed from the state for over 10 years.
In 2007, Auditor John Morrison ordered the ministry to stop operating in Montana after it refused to pay for treatment for some of its members in the state, calling its actions fraudulent.
When he announced it was again allowed to do business in Montana, Rosendale said he worked with Medi-Share to ensure it was in compliance with Montana laws.
Rosendale said nine separate direct primary care facilities have opened up across the state in communities such as Missoula, Whitefish, Kalispell, Polson and more since he started as auditor.
“What is direct primary care? It is your day-to-day take care of 99 percent of your medical needs health care,” Rosendale said.
He said then he worked on a plan to reduce the premiums for the people who were buying traditional health care through the individual market.
“What we did was develop a model and a plan, and when that is rolled out now this year, those folks across the state, over 50,000 (people), have received on average a 15 percent decrease in their insurance rates for this year,” he said. “They are averaging anywhere from $1,000 to as much as $4,500-a-year savings on just their health insurance. This is something that is going to make sure that pre-existing conditions are covered, so that we know that they know if they had something they are still going to be able to purchase this plan. It also puts the state of Montana in a place if and when they really do repeal Obamacare and the ACA, we’ve got a system in place that we can point to and say ‘We’ve got something that’s going to take the place, it’s going to cover pre-existing conditions and people actually will be able to afford it?”
Right now, the health care market is in a very good spot, he said.
He said the other thing he worked on was reducing the cost of prescription drugs, adding that he got a team together to identify where the biggest problem was.
He found that it was the pharmacy benefit managers who have started taking money from pharmacists, insurance companies and manufactures, he said.
“We were able to in a bipartisan fashion get legislation passed to remove all of that money from the system and got it to the governor’s desk and he unfortunately vetoed that bill,” Rosendale said. “We are not done with that legislation yet, sometimes it takes a session or two. Maine took that legislation from us and passed it. It’s the kind of work I can take to the federal level to represent you all and make sure we bring down the cost of prescription drugs for our seniors and for folks that rely on medications every single day.”
That one bill, he said, had reports that showed it would’ve saved between $7.5 million and $8 million a year for people on the individual market.
He said he started looking at where he could save money in agencies and had reduced his operating cost by 23 percent and reduced the staffing by over 10 percent.
He also created the Senior Living Task Force, he said, adding that a lot of seniors are being exploited in Montana.
“Twenty percent of our population in this state controls 70 percent of the assets,” he said. “When you see diminishing rates of return on your different investments, which you have right now, it’s great that interest rates are way down and that if you have to borrow money which is good, but people who are reliant on that money for their income, just that return on that investment it makes it tough for them.”
Rosendale said he has been working on training with the sheriff’s offices and county attorneys around the state to recognize the signs of senior exploitation.
“We are also trying to make sure that we look after the seniors across the state,” he said. “We all need to help each other.”
He said he announced in June of last year that when U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte, R-Mont., said he was not running for re-election.
“Right now, we are going to work extremely hard because there will be a tough, tough battle in the general election,” he added. “I’ve got some folks that I’m running against right now and I know their hearts are all in the right place, but I think it is critically important that we make sure that we elect somebody that has the ability to not only win in the general election, but once they do win that they are going to do something after they win.”
He said he gets stuff done and is goal-oriented, and that he has identified a lot of things that can be done at the federal level to help people with health care.
“I tell folks, three things you can count on: One, I’m always going to listen to you, I’m always going to listen. I love getting input from people on the ground. Two, I’m going to represent our principles. Matt Rosendale will not embarrass you when he goes to Washington, D.C. And number three, I will always protect our way of life that we enjoy here,” he said.
Rosendale said he and his wife of 35 years, Jean, own a ranch north of Glendive.
After the event, Rosendale said in an interview he started out as a real estate agent in 1978 and did that for 20 years then he bought the ranch that is north of Glendive in 2001.
“For like eight years I went to all my neighbors and did the brandings in the springtime and then in the fall I went around (to) neighbors and worked the cattle … . We would preg test all the cows, sort off the dries, ship the calves and that’s what I did,” he said. “Then it wasn’t long that I found myself elected as president of the local ag association, then I was elected president of the parish council. I’m very active in the Catholic Church.”
During that time and those elected positions, he said, people would tell him that they were recognizing some skills he wasn’t using.
He said he was encouraged by people to run for the state Legislature and he ran for the State House and was elected in 2010, adding that in 2012 he ran for a Senate seat that had opened up and was elected.
In 2014, his colleagues in the Senate elected him as the Senate Majority Leader, he said.
He added that he was recruited by Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., to run for the state auditor’s office in 2016.
“I had vision and I had a plan. I worked really hard and my work in the Legislature demonstrated that, and so now my work as the auditor I think has demonstrated that as well. Your past performance is very very good indicator of what your future results are going to be like and so I don’t have to speak in theoreticals about promise to do this, promise to do, I can say ‘I already said that I would do these things and I did it,’ and I want to continue to do that type of work for you in the United States Congress,” Rosendale said. “I’m going to Washington to continue to reduce the cost of health care, to reduce the cost of prescription drugs for our seniors and for the people around the state who rely on medications every day for their lives, and to reduce the regulations that are encumbering our businesses.”
“The president has given me his support and basically he’s got my back and I’ve got his ear, and that’s critically important to the people of this state that their congressman has that kind of relationship with the president of the United States, so that the issues that are important to us make it to the top of his agenda.”