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The White House

Background on the President's town hall in Montana today

Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release                                                        August 14, 2009
12:55 PM MDT // 2:55PM EDT
President Obama will conduct a town hall meeting in Belgrade, Montana on health insurance reform. The President will deliver remarks to Montana residents, focusing on how under health insurance reform, insurance companies will be prohibited from dropping or watering down insurance coverage for those who become seriously ill, and will then take one hour of questions from the audience.
Click HERE for facts about the need for health insurance reform in Montana.
There will be approximately 1,300 people in the audience. The vast majority of tickets were general admission (split roughly 80/20 between Bozeman and Belgrade respectively, based on their populations). Tickets were limited to two per person and were distributed on a first-come, first-served basis at Bozeman City Hall and Belgrade City Hall. The remaining tickets were distributed by the White House to elected officials, community leaders, etc.
Secretary Ken Salazar, Department of the Interior
U.S. Senator Max Baucus
U.S. Senator Jon Tester
Governor Brian Schweitzer
Lieutenant Governor John Bohlinger
Mayor Kaaren Jacobson, Bozeman
Mayor Russ Nelson, Belgrade
MT Secretary of State Linda McCulloch
MT Attorney General Steve Bullock
MT Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau
Clerk of the Supreme Court Ed Smith
Tribal Council Chairman for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes James H. Steele Jr.
U.S. Senator Jon Tester and Governor Brian Schweitzer will give remarks during the pre-program.
Father Leo Proxell will deliver the Invocation. Father Proxell is the pastor at Holy Rosary Church in Bozeman, Montana.
Shandiin Russell will lead the Pledge of Allegiance. Shandiin is a twelve year old from Ashland, Montana. She attends Sacajawea Middle School in Bozeman and is from the Northern Cheyenne reservation.
Elizabeth Croy will sing the National Anthem. Elizabeth lives in Bozeman, MT, and is a professor of voice at Montana State. She began singing at an early age, has competed at several competitions both in and outside the US, and has a master's degree in performance from the University of Colorado.
U.S. Senator Max Baucus will introduce Katie Gibson.
Katie Gibson will introduce the President. Katie is a recurrent cancer survivor who was told in 1995 that she had less than a year to live. In 1998, Katie and her husband Scott Bischke backpacked 800 miles across their beloved state of Montana. Katie had group coverage through Hewlett Packard when she and her husband decided to leave the corporation and move to Montana. Her insurance would not transfer with her if she left HP to start her own company. Due to pre-existing conditions, she struggled to find new insurance and eventually found it through a professional group, the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE).
Years after they had their new insurance, they were informed that the minimum deductible was being increased from $5000 to $25000/year. Katie and her husband had no say in the matter, and they could not afford to pay $25,000 a year out of pocket, so they had to search for new insurance. This was not easy for Katie as a cancer survivor, and one insurance company after another refused to cover her because they said she had a pre-existing condition. Eventually Katie found a company and was accepted into a new program. Just in case, Katie kept her old coverage for a month after the new coverage started – just to be certain the new company would cover her. Everything seemed fine, but several months later the new insurance company called to say they had changed their minds, and that Katie’s insurance had been rescinded retroactive to the beginning of the policy.
So now not only did Katie not have insurance, her record indicated a long lapse in coverage. Her first health insurance company would not take her back. This situation was very stressful as she was quite ill at the time. Katie and her husband called the Montana State Insurance Commissioner’s office, and they intervened for them. Through a state-backed program, Katie is now fully covered.
In June 2009, Montana’s Unemployment Rate Was 6.4 Percent. According to the most recent data available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Montana’s unemployment rate stood at 6.4 percent in June 2009. [Bureau of Labor Statistics, Regional and State Employment and Unemployment Summary, accessed 8/12/09]
From June 2008 To June 2009, Unemployment In Montana Has Risen 2%. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Montana’s unemployment rose from 4.4% to 6.4% between June 2008 and June 2009. [Bureau of Labor Statistics, Regional and State Employment and Unemployment Summary, accessed 8/12/09]
Since being signed into law, the Recovery Act has already made $577 million available to Montana – providing tax relief, filling gaps in Medicaid funding, incentivizing small business lending, jump-starting highway construction projects, and working to revitalize communities.
  • We’ve sent out one-time economic relief payments of $250 to nearly 180,000 Montana seniors, veterans and other high-need residents, totaling over $44 million.
    • In the Gallatin County area – nearly 10,000 beneficiaries have received a total of $2.4 million in one-time relief payments.
  • Montana’s teachers, school staff and education programs have already felt the impact of $172 million in Recovery Act funding. This includes $108 million in State Fiscal Stabilization Funds (SFSF) to help keep teachers in the classroom.
  • $66 million in Recovery Act assistance has been made available to Montana to provide benefits and help prevent additional Medicaid cuts. Already, the state has spent $60 million of its available Medicaid funds.
  • Montana has obligated $134 million in Recovery Act funds to jump start 69 transportation construction projects.
    • Montana’s largest Recovery Act transportation project currently underway is the Shiloh Road Corridor / Canyon Creek North project in Billings, which will reconstruct about one and a half miles of highway. The winning bid was $8.4 million from Riverside Sand and Gravel in Billings.
  • For 2009, an estimated 400,000 Montana working families will collectively receive $200 million in tax relief from the Making Work Pay tax credit.
  • The Recovery Act has expanded unemployment benefits for more than 40,000 Montana residents.
  • $10.8 million in Recovery Act grants have already been awarded to health centers in fifteen communities throughout Montana to support renovations and repairs, investments in health IT, and critically needed health care services.
  • 209 small businesses in Montana have received Recovery Act backed 7(a) and 504 SBA loans – generating $42 million in small business lending.
    • In the city of Bozeman, 10 Recovery-backed loans have already supported $750,000 in small business lending.