Montana Republicans, Big Tobacco Want to Take Medicaid Coverage From 100,000 People ( rewire.news )

One in ten people in Montana could lose their health coverage next year if Montana voters don’t pass a ballot measure in November to permanently expand Medicaid coverage.

The proposal to fund expansion includes raising taxes on tobacco products, leading tobacco companies to wage a $9 million war to thwart the effort.

Montana legislators, unlike many Republicans who have turned down billions in federal dollars to expand the program, passed Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2015. But the expansion came with a sunset provision that would end it on June 30, 2019. Republican sponsor of the Medicaid expansion, state Sen. Ed Buttrey, said he would not vote to reauthorize the HELP Act, according to Montana Public Radio.

“Big tobacco is again telling lies that put lives at risk, spending millions to protect its profits at the cost of healthcare for nearly one-hundred-thousand people,” said Jonathan Schleifer, executive director of The Fairness Project, an advocacy group championing expansion. “There’s a clear choice in this election: Medicaid saves lives; tobacco companies kill.”

Health advocates and proponents of the ballot question, Initiative 185, supported by the Montana Hospital Association and the American Heart Association, point out that the initiative has been a resounding success and should be continued.

“Medicaid expansion has provided low-income adults with access to affordable preventive, mental health, substance use disorder treatment, and other services that promote individual and family health, as well as a healthy Montana workforce,” said Sheila Hogan, director of Montana’s Department of Public Health and Human Services. “More than 65,000 expansion adults have accessed preventive services to date.”

The program has expanded health-care coverage to more than 96,000 residents since 2016, driven down