April 21, 2006                                                         Contact:Lucas Hamilton


      State Auditor John Morrison announced today that more than 200 additional Montana small businesses will be eligible to receive tax credits through Insure Montana. Insure Montana provides a refundable state income tax credit to employers who currently pay some or all of the cost of group health insurance for their employees. The program also provides additional tax credits when employers pay for insurance for the employee’s spouse or their dependants.
      “I am pleased to announce that 200 more small businesses can take advantage of the tax credits offered through Insure Montana,” said Morrison. “By allowing people to buy into health coverage at a level they can afford, we’re making sure more Montanans receive the coverage they deserve.”
      Insure Montana is designed to assist small businesses with the cost of health insurance and is covering over 3,000 Montanans since the January implementation. The program, administered by the State Auditor’s Office, offers two comprehensive health plans and provides incentive and assistance payments for both the employer and employees. It also reduces the cost of insurance by joining together businesses to form a purchasing pool. In addition, Insure Montana provides tax credits to small businesses that are currently providing group health insurance to their employees.
      Bringing together Republicans, Democrats, Independents and the business community, Morrison’s landmark healthcare legislation was passed in the 2005 legislative session. The application period opened last fall and benefits became effective in January 2006 to businesses on a first-come, first-served basis. The Legislature allocated $3 million for the first fiscal year of the program to allow for ramp up time and $10 million in the second year once the program is fully functioning.
      Based on recent statistics, 53% of Montana's uninsured population works full time for small businesses and 80% of small firms not currently offering insurance would do so if they could afford the premiums.
      "Reducing the number of uninsured Montanans has been my top priority since I took office in 2001," said Morrison. "Here in Montana, we created a small business health insurance program that uses tax credits and premium assistance to build a bridge between what employers can afford to pay and what it actually costs to cover their employees. Over 1,000 Montana small businesses are going to be able to afford health insurance because of it.”
      For more information and eligibility guidelines, log onto the Insure Montana website at: www.insuremontana.org.