July 11, 2005                                                         Contact:Lucas Hamilton

AUDITOR MORRISON ROLLS OUT NEW HEALTH INSURANCE OPPORTUNITY IN EASTERN MONTANA Morrison Partners With Local Leaders And Chambers to Announce Application For New Program


      Helena, Mont., July 11, 2005 - State Auditor John Morrison today announced the initial rollout of the Small Business Health Care Affordability Act, the new program to help provide affordable health insurance for Montana's small employers.
      
      "We're beginning our educational efforts in Eastern Montana because that's small business country in this state," said Morrison. "We know that small business drives the economy of rural Montana and those are the folks that need to know about this program."
      
      Starting next week with an Eastern Montana swing, Morrison will hold town hall meetings in Miles City, Glendive, Wolf Point and Havre. Local leaders including Rep. Gary Matthews of Miles City, Rep. Margarett Campbell of Poplar and David Henry of Havre are co-hosting the events and will assist in outreach to local businesses. Town Hall meetings throughout the rest of the state are planned during July and August.
      
      House Bill 667, the Small Business Healthcare Affordability Act, was requested by State Auditor John Morrison's office. The measure passed the legislature with strong support from both parties, and was signed into law by Governor Schweitzer in May of 2005. As a result of this new law, tax credits and premium payments will help small business owners provide health insurance to their employees. In addition, the initiative allows small businesses to band together to form a purchasing pool. The pool will be able to negotiate lower-priced health plans through group purchasing.
      
      "I am eager to learn more about this new program," said Jason Quale, owner of NAPA Auto and Truck Supply in Glendive. "As a small business owner I haven't been able to afford health insurance for my employees or myself and it would be great to finally be able to do so. Next week I am getting married and it would be nice to eventually have health insurance for my new bride also."
      
      "For thousands of working Montanans, affordable health care has been out of reach for far too long," said Morrison. "It's a crisis seen across the country - especially in rural states. Here in Montana, this new plan will provide less expensive health insurance to thousands of Montana families."
      
      Specific locations and times of the town hall meetings are as follows:
      
      Miles City
      Tuesday, July 12
      10:00 am - Noon
      Miles City Community College, Room 317
      2715 Dickinson
      
      Glendive
      Tuesday, July 12
      5:00 - 6:30 pm
      EPEC Building (Eastern Plains Event Center)
      313 S Merrill
      
      Wolf Point
      Wednesday, July 13th
      1:30 pm - 3:00 pm
      Ft. Peck Community College, Community Room
      301 Benton Street - 3rd Avenue South
      
      Havre
      Friday, July 15th
      10:00 am - Noon
      Northern Montana Hospital, Conference Rooms 1, 2 & 3
      30 13th Street