John Morrison (Montana politician)

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John Morrison
John Morrison giving US Senate testimony.jpg
John Morrison providing testimony to the United States Senate in 2005.
Montana State Auditor and State Insurance and Securities Commissioner
In office
Personal details
Born 1961
Occupation Attorney
Known for President of the National Alliance of State Health CO-OPs

John Morrison (born 1961) is an American politician who was the Montana State Auditor and Insurance and Securities Commissioner from 2001-2008, and currently an attorney, writer and businessman. He was the founding president of the National Alliance of State Health CO-OPs (NASHCO), which includes all “Consumer Operated and Oriented Plans” authorized and funded under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.[1] He is also co-founder and vice-chair of the Montana Health CO-OP, one of the first CO-OPs to be approved for funding by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.[2] Morrison is a senior partner at Morrison Sherwood Wilson Deola, a public interest law firm based in Helena, Montana.[3] In 2006 he ran unsuccessfully in the Montana Democratic primary for the US Senate nomination.

Early legal career[edit]

In the 1990s, Morrison was lead Montana counsel in the state’s Tobacco litigation and represented the New York Times, NBC and other national media in the Unabomber case.[4] Morrison and his wife are co-authors of a Montana political history book: Mavericks: The Lives and Battles of Montana’s Political Heroes.[5] Morrison also authored or co-authored other published works on topics ranging from health insurance[6] to climate change.[7]

Montana State Auditor and Insurance and Securities Commissioner[edit]

Morrison served as Montana State Auditor and State Insurance and Securities Commissioner from 2001–2008.[8] He promoted and implemented Insure Montana, a small business health insurance pool with discounted premiums paid for by an increase in the tobacco tax.[9] Morrison had been advocating the use of increased tobacco tax revenue to reduce health insurance premiums since 2002.[10] Insure Montana won national awards,[11] and became a model for the premium assistance provisions of the Affordable Care Act.[12] John Morrison also drafted Montana’s Initiative 155 (I-155) and led the campaign that created Healthy Montana Kids, which instituted a broad reform and massive expansion of children’s health coverage.[13] In the first year of operation, it brought over $200 million in new federal matching dollars into Montana and covered 10,000 additional children.[14] Healthy Montana Kids now covers 91,000 Montana Children.[15]

As Insurance Commissioner, Morrison banned “discretionary clauses” in group health and disability insurance plans and successfully defended the ban at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in Standard Ins. Co v. Morrison, 584 F. 3d 837 (2009).[16] Through the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), Morrison led passage of a similar model law that has been adopted in more than a dozen states, including New York, California, Michigan, Illinois, and Texas.[17] Morrison also led NAIC opposition to Association Health Plans[18] and fraudulent health insurance.[19]

Morrison chaired the Health Insurance and Managed Care Committee and the Market Regulation and Consumer Affairs Committee of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, as well as the NAIC’s September 11 emergency task force.[20] As the NAIC’s International Vice Chair for Asia, Morrison helped establish the relationship between U.S. and Chinese insurance regulators and, with the US Trade Representative, represented the U.S. in the US-China Insurance Dialogues, WTO Doha Round, in Hangzhou, PRC.[21]

After leaving office, Morrison was appointed by the Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner to replace former Surgeon General Dr. C. Everett Koop on the boards of the Senior Health Care Oversight Trust and the Senior Health Insurance Company of Pennsylvania (SHIP) and chaired both boards in 2011.[22] Morrison also serves on the board of the Center for Health Policy Development, parent organization of the National Academy of State Health Policy.[23]

2006 Montana U.S. Senate Election[edit]

In 2006, Morrison was a candidate for the U.S. Senate in a contested Democratic primary with Jon Tester. Morrison initially polled ahead of incumbent Republican Conrad Burns,[24] and was leading in the primary race, but it narrowed to a "deadlock” a week prior to the election.[25] Morrison was beaten in the Democratic primary by Tester,[26] who defeated Burns in November.[27]

During the Democratic Primary, it was revealed that Morrison had an extramarital affair in 1998.[28] Morrison and his wife remained together despite the affair.[29] According to the Missoula Independent, the woman involved later married the principal of companies investigated by the state auditors office while Morrison was there. Former staffers reported to the Independent that they repeatedly advised Morrison to stay out of the case entirely to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest, but they felt that he had not.[30] Morrison's affair reportedly did not affect the outcome of the probe, and the individual investigated was convicted of fraud. The case in question was handled by outside attorney Beth Baker due to Morrison's various involvements. Baker said she was given significant discretion in handling the case.[28]

National Alliance of State Health CO-OPs[edit]

Morrison announced the first round of federal low interest loans to CO-OPs in February 2012.[31] In 2012 Morrison, as President of the National Alliance of State Health CO-OPs, argued against Congressional Republicans who were pushing to cut the loan funds from the federal budget in April 2012.[32] After $2 billion in loans had been made to launch 24 CO-OPs serving 24 states, remaining funds were rescinded as part of the December 31, 2012 “fiscal cliff” deal. Morrison criticized the cuts, but said the 24 existing CO-OPs would still increase competition and innovation in the health insurance marketplace.[33] Morrison has called for the CO-OP option to be available to all Americans.[34] In October 2013, Morrison released a study showing that premiums were 8.4% lower in states that had a CO-OP than in states that did not.[35] In February 2014, Morrison estimated that 300,000 Americans had signed up for CO-OPs to date despite early technical problems in the federal Marketplace and many state based exchanges.[1]

After meeting with CO-OP leaders and Secretary Kathleen Sibelius at the White House, Morrison reported that he had been assured that the Obama administration would support CO-OPs if they continued to grow. By 2015, over 1 million Americans were covered by CO-OPs and average health insurance premiums in CO-OP states were 12% lower than in non-CO-OP states. In late 2015, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that it would pay less than 13% of promised “risk corridor” payments to insurers, a $2.4 billon shortfall, which took hundreds of millions of dollars off CO-OP balance sheets and required many to close. A Commonwealth Fund paper reported, “obstacles—resulting from policy decisions made during implementation of the ACA—have made business harder for CO-OPs.” Morrison testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee in November 2015 that CO-OPs had already saved consumers and taxpayers more than the total cost of the CO-OP program and actions by Congress and the Administration undermining the CO-OPs would cost Americans billons of dollars in future savings.[36][37][38][39][40][41][42]


  1. ^ a b REED ABELSON, KATIE THOMAS and JO CRAVEN McGINTY (February 27, 2014). "Health Law’s Small Co-ops Have Mixed Success So Far". New York Times. Retrieved March 26, 2014. 
  2. ^ "Montana health insurance co-op to gains momentum". The Missoulian. June 4, 2011. Retrieved December 21, 2012. 
  3. ^ "John Morrison". Independent Record. 
  4. ^ "John Morrison: Partner". Retrieved December 21, 2012. 
  5. ^ John Morrison and Catherine Wright Morrison (2003). Mavericks: The Lives and Battles of Montana's Political Legends. Montana Historical Society Press. 
  6. ^ John Morrison and Karen Eggleston (2008). "Developing Commercial Health Insurance in China". Perspectives: China and the World. p. 141. 
  7. ^ John Morrison and Alex Sink (September 27, 2007). "The Climate Change Peril That Insurers See". Washington Post. Retrieved February 4, 2013. 
  8. ^ "The Innovator". Montana Living. October 3, 2007. Retrieved December 21, 2012. 
  9. ^ Mike Dennison (December 20, 2005). "Health insurance program on tap". Billings Gazette. Retrieved December 21, 2012. 
  10. ^ John Morrison (April 5, 2002). "Hill misstates insurance, tax credit plan". Montana Forum. Retrieved January 23, 2013. 
  11. ^ "Honor Roll for Coverage Award". Healthcare Leadership Council. Retrieved December 21, 2012. 
  12. ^ "Democratic Leadership Council". Democratic Leadership Council. 
  13. ^ Mike Dennison (October 29, 2008). "Who’s supporting the CHIP initiative … and why?". Independent Record. Retrieved December 21, 2012. 
  14. ^ "Gazette opinion: Healthy initiative provides kids safety net in recession". Billings Gazette. October 24, 2010. Retrieved December 21, 2012. 
  15. ^ Mike Dennison (July 22, 2012). "State health insurance program for kids quietly succeeds". Billings Gazette. Retrieved December 21, 2012. 
  16. ^ "STANDARD INSURANCE COMPANY v. MORRISON". United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit. June 3, 2009. Retrieved December 21, 2012. 
  17. ^ John Morrison and Jonathan McDonald (2011). "EXORCISING DISCRETION: THE DEATH OF CAPRICE IN ERISA CLAIMS HANDLING". South Dakota Law Review. Retrieved December 21, 2012. 
  18. ^ Priya Ganapati (April 26, 2005). "Associated Health Plans Still Up for Debate". Inc. Magazine. Retrieved December 21, 2012. 
  19. ^ "Phony health insurance. (Scam Alert)". Consumer Reports. July 1, 2003. Retrieved December 21, 2012. 
  20. ^ "Montana Insurance Auditor Named Chair of NAIC Market Regulation Committee". Insurance Journal. March 11, 2008. Retrieved December 21, 2012. 
  21. ^ "The May 2008 US-China Insurance Dialogues". Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. Retrieved December 21, 2012. 
  22. ^ "About the Trust". Senior Health Insurance Company. Retrieved December 21, 2012. 
  23. ^ "Board of Directors". National Academy for State Health Policy. Retrieved December 21, 2012. 
  24. ^ "Montana Senate Election". 
  25. ^ Charles Johnson (May 27, 2006). "Tester, Morrison deadlocked". Independent Record. Retrieved December 21, 2012. 
  26. ^ Charles Johnson (June 6, 2006). "Tester wins; Burns big winner for GOP in lopsided primary". Independent Record. Retrieved December 21, 2012. 
  27. ^ Martin Kaste (November 8, 2006). "Democrat Tester Wins Montana Senate Seat". NPR. Retrieved December 21, 2012. 
  28. ^ a b Mike Dennison and Charles Johnson (April 6, 2006). "Affair didn’t alter fraud probe, state auditor says". Independent Record. Retrieved December 21, 2012. 
  29. ^ GWEN FLORIO (April 9, 2006). "Stand by your man: Reassuring or just icky?". Great Falls Tribune. 
  30. ^ J. Adams (April 26, 2006). "Why the Morrison Affair Matters". Missoula Independent. Retrieved December 21, 2012. 
  31. ^ Associated Press (February 21, 2012). "Feds loan $638M for health co-ops in 8 states". USA Today. Retrieved May 28, 2013. 
  32. ^ Brett Norman (April 30, 2012). "House GOP targets nonprofit health CO-OPs". Politico. Retrieved May 28, 2013. 
  33. ^ Brett Norman (April 25, 2013). "Health insurance CO-OPs gear up". Politico. Retrieved May 28, 2013. 
  34. ^ Kent Conrad and John Morrison (April 17, 2013). "CO-OP movement far from dead". Politico. Retrieved May 28, 2013. 
  35. ^ Brett Norman (October 7, 2013). "Lower premiums in CO-OP states". Politico. Retrieved March 26, 2014. 
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