April 25, 2007                                                         Contact:Lucas Hamilton


      In recognition of national "Cover the Uninsured Week", Morrison honors outstanding work in addressing the health care crisis
      In a presentation ceremony held in Missoula today, State Auditor John Morrison presented Western States Insurance Agent Tim Garden with the Insure Montana Outstanding Agent Award for 2007. Tim Garden was chosen for his outstanding work to help reduce the ranks of the uninsured. Mr. Garden has helped more than 40 previously uninsured small businesses in Missoula and the surrounding area become insured through Insure Montana.
      “Through Insure Montana, Mr. Garden has made a real difference in the lives of so many working Montanans and their families,” said Morrison during the presentation ceremony. “Mr. Garden 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, held at a participating Insure Montana business, 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 Cliff Larsen, Insure Montana Board member; Western States Insurance Agent and award recipient Tim Garden and small business owners Lori and Guy Hughes.
      “I am happy to announce that in less than 1 ½ years of implementation, we are now covering more than 8,000 Montanans through the Insure Montana program,” said Morrison. “But we couldn’t have done it alone; thanks to dedicated people like Tim Garden 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.”
      “I am honored to receive this award,” said Garden. “But more gratifying, is being able to finally provide a viable health insurance option for working Montanans and their families.”
      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.
      “As a small business owner, health insurance has remained out of our reach because we couldn’t find an affordable option,” said Lori Hughes, owner of Allbrands Appliance Service. “Thanks to Insure Montana and Tim Garden’s work to get us signed up, we’re able now to offer health insurance to our employees.”
      About Insure Montana
      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 helps provide health insurance for more than 8,000 Montanans. Cigarette taxes generate approximately $70 million annually in Montana. Less than fifteen percent of the total cigarette tax revenue is directed towards Insure Montana. Insure Montana received national accolades when it was recognized by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners as one of four outstanding state innovations in healthcare.
      About “Cover the Uninsured” Week: April 23 – 29, 2007
      Now in its fifth year, Cover the Uninsured Week brings together business owners, union members, educators, students, patients, physicians, nurses, faith leaders and their congregants, and organizations in all 50 states and the District of Columbia to demand that our nation's leaders find solutions for the nearly 45 million Americans living without health insurance. What started in 2003 as a week-long effort to raise awareness has become a nationwide movement to make sure that this issue is a top national priority. Each year, Cover the Uninsured Week gains momentum as thousands of people organize events and activities on behalf of America's uninsured.
      For more information, log onto the Insure Montana website at www.insuremontana.org.