April 10, 2006                                                         Contact:Lucas Hamilton


      Approximately 80 more Montanans could receive health insurance coverage
      State Auditor John Morrison announced today that approximately 80 additional low-income Montanans could be eligible to receive financial assistance with health insurance for medically high-risk individuals. The coverage is through the Montana Comprehensive Health Association and is for high-risk Montanans who haven’t been able to buy health insurance because of a serious health condition. Congress recently appropriated $25 million that states can tap for premium assistance programs; as a result, the MCHA board has opened up additional slots in the plan.
      “This pool is the insurer of last resort for more than 3,600 Montanans who have existing health conditions such as cancer, diabetes or other chronic illnesses that make purchasing insurance on their own impossible,” Morrison said. “The additional federal funds for the premium assistance program will help ensure that more low-income Montanans can afford this high-risk coverage beginning this month.”
      MCHA provides comprehensive health insurance to individuals denied coverage by private carriers. High-risk individuals and those suffering from serious health problems are among those who benefit from this insurance plan. The MCHA also is the coverage available to persons who are leaving group coverage.
      Anyone whose income is below 150 percent of the federal poverty level and meets the program’s eligibility standards, would qualify for the reduced premiums. The association will be allowed to limit enrollment in the program based on available resources and establish a waiting list for people interested in participating. Based on the funding available, the MCHA board expects that approximately 80 Montanans will be able to receive assistance with their premium payments.
      “While high risk pools are not intended to solve all the problems of our health care system, they provide critical assistance, in the form of private health insurance, to those who are most likely to fall through the cracks,” Morrison said. “This funding will allow the high risk pool to continue to play an important safety net function in Montana. I am encouraged that the MCHA board has made expanding the premium assistance program a priority.”
      Populations most likely to benefit from the pools are the self-employed, employees of small business that don’t offer coverage, and people who have left their jobs with large employers and entered the individual health insurance market.
      “Folks interested in applying for the program can call my office at 1-800-332-6148. We have a team of insurance advocates on staff that can help folks figure out the application process,” said Morrison.