Dec. 17, 2002                                                         Contact:Lucas Hamilton

Morrison announces details of the Montana Health Insurance Affordability Act


       Helena - State Auditor John Morrison today released the details of a proposal to reduce the uninsured rate and address critical health care issues for seniors, educators, children and others.
       "Montana is facing a health care problem of monumental proportions," Morrison said at a news conference in the Capitol Rotunda.
       The Montana Health Insurance Affordability Act, sponsored by Rep. Bob Lawson of Whitefish and Sen. Mike Cooney of Helena, would provide $82 million a year to address critical health care issues facing Montana. The funds would be divided as follows:

  • $22.5 million a year for tax credits for individual and small group coverage
  • $22.5 million a year for school district health care coverage
  • $10 million a year for tax credits to assist low-income seniors who lack prescription drug coverage
  • $3 million a year for the expansion of the Children's Health Insurance Program to be matched with $12 million in federal funds
  • $24 million a year for existing programs administered by the Department of Public Health and Human Services
      "This legislation is the result of a cooperative effort more than a year in the making," Morrison said. "We have traveled to communities all across the state, worked with the interim legislative committee on health care and addressed some of the most critical health care need of Montanans."
      Morrison said this legislation could assist tens of thousands of Montanans who lack health insurance coverage, are being driven out of the market by high premium costs or cannot afford their prescription drugs.
      The refundable and advanceable tax credits for small businesses and individuals could assist more than 14,000 Montanans. (details included in packet)
      The funding for school district health insurance could help provide affordable coverage to about 16,000 school employees at a time when health benefits are among their top concerns, Morrison said.
      LC 466 includes a measure to provide a refundable tax credit of up to $350 a year for people age 65 and older for insulin and other prescription drugs. The program could help nearly 30,000 Montana seniors afford prescription drugs.
      
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      The $3 million allocated to the expansion of CHIP could double the size of the program from 9,500 enrolled children to 19,000.
      Finally, the bill provides $24 million in funding for existing DPHHS programs that impact tens of thousands of Montanans. Many of those dollars may be matched nearly three to one by federal funds under the Medicaid program.
      Morrison was joined by representatives of groups supporting the legislation including, Blue Cross Blue Shield, AARP, MEA/MFT, Montana School Board Association, New West Health Services, AFL-CIO, Montana Nurses Association, Montana Medical Association and the American Cancer Society.