HELENA – Healthcare professionals were joined by Governor Steve Bullock at St. Peter’s Health on Tuesday to show support for I-185, which would extend Medicaid Expansion and increase tobacco taxes in Montana.
Speakers at the event said the ballot initiative would help support healthcare systems in the state and discourage young Montanans from taking up tobacco use.
“Everyday we see patients at the medical group who couldn’t access the health care system without Medicaid,” said Todd Wampler, M.D. from St. Peter’s Health. “By providing Medicaid Expansion we can give those people the care they need before it becomes dire.”
“Children in the state of Montana are one of the highest rates of youth suicides in the entire United States,” said Carly Sell, Nursing Acute Manager of Shodair Children’s Hospital. “In the face of this mental health crisis, the thought of approximately 100,000 families losing services or access is a tragedy.”
Children from Shodair’s new Day Treatment Program presented Gov. Bullock with anti-tobacco art they made and participated in a symbolic game of “Kick Butts” to show their commitment to not use tobacco.
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Gov. Bullock said he hopes Montanans will learn the facts about the initiative and see through the out-of-state spending.
“These tobacco companies have spent three times more than any committee has in our state’s history,” said Gov. Bullock. “Big Tobacco isn’t doing this out of their Big Tobacco hearts, they’re doing it to protect profits.”
Gov. Bullock added he believes the ballot initiative will pass in November because of the healthcare growth Montana has seen with Medicaid Expansion
“Given the fact that through Medicaid Expansion 100,000 Montanans have healthcare and 5,000 Montanans have jobs,” said Gov. Bullock. “I think it’s too important for folks not to see the truth of it all.”
Opponents of I-185 argue the tobacco tax would mainly target lower-income people, and that taxpayers will eventually have to shoulder costs as people quit tobacco or buy out of state.
As of October 9, $12.4 million has been raised and spent against I-185 while $4.8 million has been raised to support the initiative.
-John Riley reporting for MTN News