May 1, 2006                                                         Contact:Lucas Hamilton

MORRISON ANNOUNCES RECIPIENT OF ‘INSURE MONTANA OUTSTANDING AGENT AWARD’


      In recognition of national "Cover the Uninsured Week", Morrison honors outstanding work in addressing the health care crisis
      “Getting the word out about health care options like Insure Montana is an ongoing effort and our work in this area is never done which is why we are presenting the ‘Insure Montana Outstanding Agent Award’ to Mark Tracy,” said Montana State Auditor John Morrison today at an award presentation event in Great Falls. “Mr. Tracy has done great work in educating Montana’s small businesses about this very important health care option and has worked to get them signed up and insured.”
      The event was part of "Cover the Uninsured Week," organized nationally to increase awareness about the crisis of the uninsured in America. Others present at the award ceremony included Randy Cline, Vice President, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana; Western States Insurance Agent and award recipient Mark Tracy and small business owner Daryl Rogers.
      “I am happy to announce that in less than 120 days of implementation, we are now covering more than 3,000 Montanans through the Insure Montana program,” said Morrison. “But we couldn’t have done it alone; thanks to dedicated people like Mark Tracy and the team at Blue Cross Blue Shield we have been able to make great progress towards insuring Montana’s small business workers and their families.”
      “Health insurance has been out of reach for far too many of Montana’s small businesses,” said Mark Tracy. “Because of Insure Montana, I am able to offer real health insurance solutions to eligible small businesses. It’s great to receive this award, but what’s really great is to finally provide a viable health insurance option for these businesses and their employees.”
      Administered by the State Auditor’s Office, Insure Montana offers two comprehensive health plans through Blue Cross and Blue Shield 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.
      "We are excited to be part of this public-private partnership known as Insure Montana," said Cline. "We are pleased to offer insurance plans designed specifically for this program – they were crafted to be affordable for Montana families while at the same time providing excellent benefits. I applaud Mark Tracy, and other agents across Montana, for their efforts in educating folks about Insure Montana and then working with them through the application process.”
      “As a small business owner we haven’t been able to afford health insurance,” said Mr. Rogers, owner of Roger’s Jewelry. “Now with Insure Montana, it makes it affordable to do so.”
      Bringing legislators from both sides of the aisle together with the business community, this landmark healthcare legislation was a joint initiative of Governor Brian Schweitzer and State Auditor John Morrison and was passed in the 2005 legislative session. Funded by a $1per pack cigarette tax passed by voters in the fall of 2004, the program was 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. Cigarette taxes generate approximately $70 million annually in Montana. When fully implemented, approximately 7,000 Montanans will be able to get health insurance as a result of the new program.
      For more information, log onto the Insure Montana website at www.insuremontana.org.