August 10, 2005                                                         Contact:Lucas Hamilton

AUDITOR MORRISON ROLLS OUT NEW HEALTH INSURANCE OPPORTUNITY IN CENTRAL MONTANA Morrison Partners With Local Chamber to Announce Application For New Program


      Helena, Mont., August 10, 2005 - State Auditor John Morrison today announced the continued 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 continuing our educational efforts in rural 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."
      Coming off an eastern swing last month, Morrison held town hall meetings in Miles City, Glendive, Wolf Point and Havre. "The response has been tremendous," said Morrison. Town Hall meetings throughout the rest of the state are planned during August and September.
      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 Ellen Marsh, owner of Reid's Clothing in Lewistown. "As a small business owner I haven't been able to afford health insurance for my employees and it would be great to finally be able to do so."
      "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."
      Details of the town hall meeting are as follows:
      
      Lewistown
      Wednesday, August 10th
      10:45 am - 11:45 am
      Lewistown Area Chamber of Commerce
      408 NE Main
      Lewistown, MT 59457