Health Care Insurance: Who Can Afford It? (No. 603)Montanans who have health insurance coverage are noticing a steady uptick in their co-pay rates. With or without health care reform, the cost of insurance is expected to continue creeping upward. That's not exactly good news for more than 34 percent of uninsured Montanans under the age of 65. (Families USA 2008 survey) Yet, some small business employers manage to pay the full cost of insurance premiums for their workers. How do they provide medical coverage in a tough economic environment where other Montana entrepreneurs are scrambling to meet payroll? Efforts to provide health care for all continue, but making that coverage affordable is a huge challenge. Montana Focus visits rural and urban Montanans, and medical insurance and hospital administrators, in this examination of the cost of providing health care coverage in a time where a medical emergency can spell financial bankruptcy.
More than 22 million acres of Montana's landscape is forested. Some want to keep it that way. However, the pine beetle infestation has opened the door to some interesting collaborations between the logging industry and environmental groups. Proposals that once were a sure bet to wind up in court are getting a green light.
Montana's Logging Debate (No. 701)
Montana's ongoing debate over logging has taken some interesting turns over the years, but a recent event has triggered the shift that is underway. Rather than drawing a line in the sand that says "cross it and we'll see you in court," a collaborative approach is emerging on how best to deal with the devastating pine beetle infestations in our forests.
Not only is the physical landscape of Montana's forests changing, the pine beetle infestation has triggered a shift in the political landscape as well.Groups like the Montana Wilderness Association have signed on to projects like the Clancy/Unionville contract between the U.S. Forest Service, and Ry Timber, to log 600 + acres of damaged trees. Therein lies the debate. The Alliance for the Wild Rockies promotes a hands off approach that would favor habitat for elk and other denizens of the forest. Are the Rockies even suited for logging? Is Montana turning the corner on an issue that pitted commercial loggers against opposing groups? Or, will the gloves go back on once the beetle damaged timber contracts play out?
The Tea Party: Taxed Enough Already? (No. 702)
In an off year election, candidates endorsing Tea Party themes are shaking up the status quo with primary challenges around the country. They eschew big government and embrace property rights and the constitution. They are big fans of Ayn Rand's 'Atlas Shrugged'… so much so that the Billings, Mont., Tea Party chapter is called Montana Shrugged.
Tea Party proponents are quick to underscore that there are no leaders in this group. In fact, decentralizing is a key component of the movement. Their doors are open to all political persuasions, but the largest number of Tea Party members are GOP conservatives, and they're mad. Will anger over the handling of the financial crisis and issues like health care reform be enough to change the outcome of some of the key legislative races?
Tea Party supporters weigh in on what makes them tick, and what ticks them off, as Montana Focus examines the potential impact that the Tea Party might have in the outcome of the November election.