I-185 saves Montana money, supports our veterans


September 26, 2018

Prior to bipartisan Medicaid expansion, Montana had the highest percentage of uninsured veterans in the nation. Only 40 percent of eligible veterans are enrolled in the VA health care system. Because the VA has only one main medical center in the state, Medicaid is critical for health care for thousands of veterans and their spouses living in rural communities. They are afforded access to care that is closer to home.

Nationally, nearly 1 in 10 veterans relies on Medicaid. In Montana, fully 10 percent of our population are veterans.  These numbers alone should offer us guidance on whether or not to continue Medicaid expansion in Montana.

Like many of you, I have watched the opposition to I-185, funded almost entirely by Big Tobacco companies Philip Morris and RJ Reynolds, inundate our state with ads.

I’ve looked at the initiative carefully and here are the simple facts:

1) I-185 will pay for itself. The fiscal note clearly shows that. I-185 will ensure Montana continues to access critical federal funds, save the state on health care costs and provides enough revenue to cover the state’s match.

2) It doesn’t cut veterans services. In fact, without I-185, 100,000 Montanans including 9,500 Montana veterans and their families will lose Medicaid eligibility in 2019.

3) Medicaid is saving the state money on health care costs while Big Tobacco is driving up the cost of health care for all Montanans.

I-185 sets up independently monitored accounts and dedicates over $5 million in new tobacco tax revenue for veteran’s services, an 83 percent increase for veterans services funded through the tobacco tax. This funding will go to veteran’s nursing homes and suicide prevention programs.

In 1967, I served as a C-7A Caribou pilot for the Air Force in South Vietnam. I remember vividly opening up c-rations that contained cigarettes. I foolishly smoked those cigarettes. And continued smoking for decades until I was able to finally quit. It’s wrong that so many veterans who have served our nation overseas come back and have to fight for their lives from tobacco-related disease and fight for access to the care they deserve.

Sadly, the opposition to I-185 is pitting veterans against veterans. Why would they want to take away Medicaid eligibility for thousands of Montana veterans and their families? As you follow the money, the answer becomes clear.

The opposition to I-185 is funded almost entirely by the lobbying arms of some of the world’s largest tobacco corporations that were just found to be engaging in dark money political activity by the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices.

The fiscal note reports that for a 10 percent increased tax on tobacco, they anticipate a 6 percent decrease in tobacco product purchases. In a nutshell: if I-185 passes, big tobacco loses millions in profits and 100,000 Montanans won’t have their current health care taken away.

The bottom line is that access to quality healthcare should not be dependent on your net income or your net worth.  Support I-185.


Retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Don Loranger, a Havre native, lives in Bigfork


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