Montana's House Bill 265, signed into law by Gov. Schweitzer on April 28, gives heightened authority to estimating systems, requiring every operation and all costs identified by the estimating systems to be considered by insurers. The bill means that insurers cannot pick and choose which operations or costs they wish to accept or deny.
Bill 265 is formally titled: An Act Providing That An Insurance Company May Not Unilaterally Disregard A Repair Operation Or Cost Identified By An Estimating System That The Insurer And An Automobile Body Repair Business Or Location Have Agreed To Utilize In Determining The Cost Of Repair
The bill was sponsored and supported by the Montana Collision Repair Specialists. Said Bruce Halcro, president of MCRS and owner of Capital Collision Center in Helena, "Montana shops rallied to the cause and made multiple contacts to our state legislators when asked by the association. We are very proud of all our members in Montana. They made the difference."
Writing in support of the legislation in February, Denny Menhollt, owner of Denny Menholt Chevrolet, in Billings (and a body shop owner), said: "HB265 is written to support a safe and economically sound collision repair. Insurers require usage of a database provider that identifies repair procedures. Many times, insurers then disallow or refuse to pay for these required procedures leaving the potential for unsafe repairs. Repairers then complete the required procedures, leaving no choice by to charge the consumer co-pay in addition to their deductible."
Menholt also expressed support for HB264, a bill to allow all Montana businesses as well as consumers to file a complaint with the state auditor's office if they see code violations that negatively impact consumers. The bill would provide a mechanism to seek code enforcement.
The bill was opposed by insurance lobby groups, but not necessarily by independent insurers. Ed Melcher, an independent insurance agent in Billings, supported the bill, saying: " HB265 would help eliminate the potential for consumers having to pay additional monies above their deductible." Melcher also supported HB 264.