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Montana deals with high percentages of uninsured, smokers

Currently 18.5 percent or 165,000 Montana residents don't have health insurance.

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The state's insurance department is examining the possibility of employer and individual refundable tax credits to relieve the problem. State legislators are trying to determine whether Montana can implement tax credits that would help individuals buy health coverage and let more businesses offer or continue to offer health insurance.

Additionally, 20 percent of adults in Montana smoke, racking up more than $25 million in bills for treating health care problems related to tobacco use.

The Department of Insurance is encouraging state legislators to increase the tobacco tax in Montana to help offset some of the health care costs for smokers, since currently most of the cost burden is shifted to nonsmokers, who represent 80 percent of the adult population. The state is also exploring funding of a tobacco-cessation and prevention program.

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