Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Tobacco industry donates millions to try and defeat Medicaid expansion in Montana

"Voters in Montana have a simple choice: side with companies that kill or with Montanans who need access to healthcare.”

Image Credit: Reuters

A tax increase on cigarettes in Montana is on the ballot this midterm election and big tobacco is spending a record-breaking amount of money to stop it from passing. The $2 tax increase would provide health care coverage to more than 100,000 low-income residents by taxing tobacco.

But big tobacco companies such as Altria Client Services and RAI Services Company have donated millions to try and defeat I-185.

“This is like arsonists trying to defund the fire department,” Jonathan Schleifer, The Fairness Project executive director, said in a statement to ThinkProgress. “Big tobacco companies lied to sell their products and make people sick, and now they’re lying to avoid paying their fair share.”

The measure would expand Medicaid if passed by increasing the tax on cigarettes from “$2 to $3.70 and 33 percent for tobacco products like e-cigarettes,” ThinkProgress reported. By voting yes, the measure will continue to provide health care coverage to 100,000 Montana residents who have been covered under the expansion that took place under the Affordable Care Act in 2019. But that expansion runs up in July 2019 and therefore, if I-85 doesn’t pass in November, it could subsequently take away coverage to those people.

But the tobacco industry has raised close to $17.5 million, which has been donated to Montanans Against Tax Hikes, a political committee who opposes the measure. Altogether, the group raised $18.5 million “the most money raised against any ballot initiative in the state’s history,” ThinkProgress reported.

“Voters in Montana have a simple choice: side with companies that kill or with Montanans who need access to healthcare,” Schleifer said.

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