Healthcare on the ballot – hospital shows support for I-185

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This fall, ballot initiative I-185 proposes a tobacco tax that will fully fund Montana’s Medicaid expansion program. To physicians, nurses, care coordinators, nursing home aids, and your local hospital, this means that the healthcare of 100,000 people in Montana and 18,000 patients in the Flathead Valley area is on the ballot. Initiative 185 is a public health initiative, and as healthcare workers, we are asking for your support.

Here are a few key things to note about I-185:

It fully funds Medicaid expansion

There is no “Unfunded Mandate” — that was invented by out of state tobacco corporations to scare Montanans. The Office of Budget and Planning determined I-185 to be fiscally neutral — no profit and no loss.

Here are the correct numbers. Medicaid expansion costs $60 million. The tobacco tax brings in $26 million, and savings from the Medicaid expansion program and federal reimbursement matches equals $31million. The additional $4.5 million is covered by premiums paid by Medicaid expansion recipients, equaling $60.5 million. There are even provisions in the plan in case tax revenue goes down because less people purchase fewer tobacco products. For healthcare providers, that would be the best possible outcome of the tobacco tax – to see less people using tobacco.

Eighty percent of Medicaid expansion recipients are working Montanans

These are our firefighters, small business owners, and farmers. Our friends and neighbors can take better care of their health and their families because of Medicaid expansion.

Almost all of the negative news about I-185 is funded by Big Tobacco

You are right to be skeptical about the information against I-185. The ads against I-185 are funded by Big Tobacco to keep people addicted to tobacco.

Smoking is still the No. 1 cause of death in Montana

Our physicians and nurses see the devastating impacts of tobacco everyday. If there is any opportunity to reduce the number of people using tobacco, keep our kids from getting addicted, and save lives of Montanans — in addition to reducing healthcare costs from tobacco related illnesses — our hospitals and healthcare providers support the initiative.

We ask for your support to reduce tobacco use and support healthcare in Montana. We can save lives — some of the 4,800 preventable deaths caused by tobacco every year — by passing I-185.

Also, I-185 is the first time that vaping and e-cigarettes have been taxed. Higher tobacco taxes can prevent youth and teens from using tobacco in the form of vaping or e-cigarettes, which have been called an epidemic by the FDA. Currently, 400 Montana kids become addicted to tobacco every year — I-185 can help kids stay away from tobacco in any form.

If you have questions about I-185, we encourage you to reach out to your healthcare provider, contact me at North Valley Hospital at (406) 863-3632, or visit healthymontana.org. Together, we can stand up to Big Tobacco — for our patients, our kids, and our community.

Allison Linville handles community relations for North Valley Hospital.

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