March 14, 2005                                                         Contact:Lucas Hamilton

IN STRONG BI-PARTISAN VOTE, MONTANA HOUSE APPROVES MORRISON BILL TO MAKE HEALTH INSURANCE MORE AFFORDABLE The Small Business Healthcare Affordability Act (HB 667) passes the House


      Helena, Mont., March 14, 2005 - The House of Representatives today passed the Small Business Healthcare Affordability Act (HB 667), the bill championed by State Auditor John Morrison to make health care more affordable for small businesses. The bill passed second reading by a 69 to 31 margin, with support from both Republicans and Democrats.
      "For thousands of working Montanans, affordable health care has remained out of reach for far too long," Morrison said. "It's a crisis, and today, a clear major majority of Montana House members had the fortitude to act. This bill will provide less expensive health insurance to thousands of Montana small businesses and their employees. Every small business group in the state of Montana Including the Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) and the Montana Economic Development Association supports it. I applaud the members of the Montana House for advancing this very important bill."
      On Friday in the House Taxation Committee, the bill was tabled due to a tie vote along party lines. However, because this bill is a top priority, the democrats used one of the 12 'silver bullets' appropriated to each party to pull the bill out of committee and on to the house floor for a vote.
      The bill, backed by money from increased tobacco taxes approved by voters last fall, would provide tax credits to small businesses already providing health insurance coverage to employees, and premium credits to small businesses currently without coverage.
      The NFIB, which represents several thousand Montana small businesses, surveys its members before supporting bills. This bill received more support from NFIB members than any bill they have ever surveyed.