May 23, 2007                                                         Contact:Lucas Hamilton


      Montana State Auditor Testifies As Expert Witness Before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions
      Washington, DC, May 23, 2007 – Calling on Congress to work closely with the states to “implement true reforms that will make insurance more affordable for working families,” Montana State Auditor John Morrison testified yesterday before a U.S. House subcommittee about the Insure Montana health insurance program and federal law changes that will encourage further state efforts to cover the uninsured.
      "From Maine to Montana, states are getting serious about ending the health care crisis," Morrison said during his testimony. "The laboratories of democracy are on the march, pioneering reforms and getting Americans covered."
      Democratic leaders and some Republicans in congress are examining whether federal laws, particularly the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), are impeding state health policy reforms.
      Noting that states differ in their preferred approaches to addressing the health insurance crisis, Morrison argued that ERISA should be amended to allow states more flexibility to reform their laws and health insurance markets.
      “Montana is a very rural state, with many small employers and a 19% uninsured rate. As the existing health care crisis spreads across this entire country, the best solutions for addressing this common problem vary widely from state to state because of widely varying demographics,” Morrison said during his testimony. “Solutions that work in Massachusetts or in California may not work in Montana, and that is why state-based health reforms may be the most expeditious solution to a growing national problem. States can experiment with reforms on a smaller scale, so that the effectiveness of those reforms can be tested.”
      ERISA preemption of state regulation has been an obstacle to state-based health care reforms and will continue to be an obstacle to some future reforms unless changes are made.
      "While there are many challenges that call for the national authority and resources of Congress, we hope that your approach to health care will empower the states so that more of us can get out of the wagon and help you pull it over the hill," Morrison said.
      This was Morrison's second appearance in as many years before congressional committees testifying about Insure Montana and federal law changes to encourage state-level reforms. In 2005, he testified before the U.S. Senate's Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee.
      While in Washington, Morrison also spoke to the U.S.-China Health Care Forum, sponsored by the U.S. Departments of Commerce and Health and Human Services.