Sept. 6, 2002                                                         Contact:Lucas Hamilton

Low-income insurance program makes health coverage more affordable through sliding-scale fees

      Local health care officials announced a plan to offer subsidized health insurance coverage to low-income Montanans who cannot get medical insurance because of pre-existing health conditions.
      State Auditor John Morrison, Chuck Butler, chairman of the Montana Comprehensive Health Association and Kate Wilson, executive director of the Lewis and Clark County Cooperative Health Center, today announced the details of a program to insure more high-risk Montanans who have not been able to buy health insurance because of a health condition and income. It will allow the MCHA to subsidize insurance premiums for people who qualify by income.
      "This is a positive step toward helping Montana's low-income adults get health insurance," said Morrison, Montana's Insurance Commissioner. "It offers individuals the opportunity to pay an amount they can afford toward their health insurance rather than going uninsured."
      The 2001 Montana Legislature established the pilot program, with funding to be arranged from federal or private sources. Behind the urging of U.S. Sens. Max Baucus and Conrad Burns, Congress appropriated $1.25 million for the project.
      "If this program is successful, we hope to get continued funding for low-income Montanans who desperately need health insurance," Butler said.
      MCHA provides comprehensive health insurance to individuals who cannot get coverage because of health conditions. High-risk individuals and those suffering from serious health problems are among those who would benefit from this program.
      "We see many people who could benefit from this program," Wilson said. "It will give low-income Montanans access to specialty health care and in-hospital services."
      MCHA will limit enrollment in the pilot program based on available resources and establish a waiting list for people interested in participating. Enrollment is on a first-come basis. The pilot program will end when the federal grant funds are exhausted.
      To be eligible a person must be a Montana resident, have been rejected or offered a restrictive rider by two insurers within the last six months or have a specified major illness, be ineligible for any other health insurance coverage and have family income less than the qualifying income amounts. (Income guidelines and a premium schedule accompany this release.)
      To learn more about the program or to obtain an application, call 1-800-447-7828, extension 8537 or in Helena call 444-8537.