April 28, 2008                                                         Contact:Lucas Hamilton


      More than 700 businesses waiting to get into small business health insurance program; 5,000 more Montanans could be covered
      Announcement comes during “Cover the Uninsured Week”
      Montana State Auditor John Morrison today announced a proposal to open up the Insure Montana purchasing pool program to all eligible businesses currently on the waiting list. The proposal will be submitted this week through the executive planning process as a funding request for consideration during the 2009 legislative session. Morrison’s announcement comes during Cover the Uninsured Week, an annual national project of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
      “The demand for Insure Montana is overwhelming,” said Morrison. “The purchasing pool program was filled to capacity within about six weeks of the initial launch. Over 700 businesses are waiting to get into the program. Without this proposal to expand the program – these businesses will never get in. It’s important to take care of all our small businesses that need the help, not just a select few.”
      Morrison’s proposal to clear the current waiting list requests $11,327,775 in additional funding for the 2010 biennium. In addition, Morrison is requesting $6,728,006 to partially remove the 2007 cap on subsidy levels for the premium payments to both employees and employers of current and future Insure Montana businesses.
      “Cover the Uninsured Week is an occasion to spotlight the crisis of the uninsured and outline possible solutions,” said Morrison. “Insure Montana is one of those solutions. It has been a big help in our efforts to cover the uninsured and help small business with the cost of health insurance -- but there are more uninsured working Montanans that would benefit from this program.”
      Insure Montana is designed to assist small businesses with the cost of health insurance. There are two parts to the program. The purchasing pool offers two comprehensive health plans and provides incentive and assistance payments for both employers and employees. It also reduces the cost of insurance by joining together businesses to form a purchasing pool. The tax credit program offers tax credits to small businesses that are currently providing group health insurance to their employees.
      Funded by a share of the $1 per pack cigarette tax passed by voters as a ballot initiative in the fall of 2004, the program helps provide health insurance for more than 9,000 Montanans. For the current biennium, $22 million dollars has been appropriated to Insure Montana (FY 2008, 2009).
      Bringing legislators from both sides of the aisle together with the business community, this landmark healthcare legislation was a joint initiative of State Auditor John Morrison and Governor Brian Schweitzer. The measure was initially passed in the 2005 legislative session and had wide bi-partisan legislative support as well the support of healthcare and consumer advocates, insurers and the business community including the Montana Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business
      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”. In addition, Insure Montana has been recognized by Congress as a possible national model. At the invitation of Congress, John Morrison has testified numerous times about the success of Insure Montana.
      "Reducing the ranks of uninsured Montanans has been my top priority since I took office in 2001," said Morrison. "There are 9,252 Montanans currently receiving healthcare through the program. It’s a great start, but we can do a lot better. There are more than 700 small businesses, with over 5000 Montanans that would participate in Insure Montana if they were allowed into the program.”