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We urge you to vote for Initiative 185, to reauthorize Medicaid expansion, which means the difference between healthcare and no healthcare to 100,000 Montanans — nearly 10 percent of the state’s population. The initiative also sharply increases tax on tobacco — a tax which is the most potent weapon in the public’s arsenal to reduce cancer across our state.

We don’t believe this initiative is perfect. We wish more of the initiative’s proceeds would go to helping veterans instead of the specified cap of 4 percent. We are concerned long-term about a funding gap for Medicaid in the state, particularly since the initiative leaves the state vulnerable to the vicissitudes of the federal government.

But we simply do not have confidence in the Legislature’s will or ability to extend Medicaid expansion in the current political environment, and this initiative, however imperfect, gets that done.

Also, we take a particular dislike to Big Tobacco throwing more than $8.5 million into this race – $7.7 million in cash and the rest in in-kind services – to try to keep as many Montanans as possible, now and in the future, hooked on their cancer-causing products. We believe that effort is all the more cynical and destructive when one considers that in its barrage of advertising, Montanans Against Tax Hikes claims “special interests” are trying to “game the system.” If $8 million in campaign money isn’t trying to “game the system,” we don’t know what is.

Meanwhile, according to the American Cancer Society, research shows that by far the most effective tool for preventing tobacco use is making it less affordable. Anything we can do as a society to get people to quit smoking — or not start in the first place — benefits all of us and means long-term cost savings.

MATH argues that the initiative is unconstitutional. We feel differently. Although, regrettably, opponents say a tobacco-funded court challenge is likely if the initiative passes, we believe I-185 will survive.

But it can’t survive if we don’t pass it in the first place.

I-185 makes sense for public health in Montana, and we endorse it wholeheartedly.

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