Dear Bozeman Health Community,
We care about each individual, their health, and bringing meaningful services
to support them in their health journey. Consistent with our mission to
ensure that the vulnerable have access to the care they need, we as a
healthcare organization have taken a strong stance: tobacco is a threat
to the communities we serve. We see the incredible suffering tobacco-related
diseases and death cause to our neighbors, friends, families, and even
our own careteam members. Smoking is the #1 cause of preventable death
in Montana and Bozeman Health is a tobacco-free health system because
we all know the devastating health outcomes from using these products.
As care team members working with families and kids every day, you see
firsthand how important insurance coverage is to promoting active, healthy
lifestyles and make it easier to take advantage of low-cost, preventative
care. A cornerstone of this coverage is Montana’s cost-effective
Medicaid program. That’s why I wanted to be sure you have the information
you need to feel confident in your vote on I-185. This initiative will
generate revenue from increasing the state tobacco tax in order to prevent
nearly 100,000 hardworking Montana families and veterans from losing their
current health coverage through Montana’s Medicaid expansion program.
I’m sure you have seen a lot of misleading information about I-185.
Big Tobacco corporations have dumped more than $9 million dollars (and
counting) into TV, radio, and digital ads designed to confuse you. The
fact is, I-185 is about keeping hardworking families and kids healthy,
so that they can continue to contribute to the communities where they
live, work, and play. Tobacco and tobacco-related diseases kill 1,600
Montanans per year and 28% of cancer deaths in Montana are a result of
smoking. Each year in Montana, 19,000 kids are destined for premature
death due to these lethal products.
The negative impacts on community health aren’t the only consequences.
Tobacco use also costs Montanans $440 million dollars a year in health
care costs. Right now, every Montana household pays nearly $779 extra
in taxes annually to help cover the cost of smoking. What is important
to remember is that with I-185, if you don't use tobacco, you don't
pay. Not only will this initiative fund programs that prevent kids from
smoking and help adults quit smoking, but it will also help to curb the
cost of tobacco-related diseases by preventing them in the first place.
By voting to increase the cigarette tax by $2.00 per pack, you can be
part of the solution to help to prevent 4,800 premature deaths, decrease
youth smoking rates by over 20%, help to prevent 8,000 Montana kids from
becoming adult smokers, and help 9,300 adults quit smoking.
Medicaid expansion is not a new program – it’s the current
healthcare 1 in 10 hardworking Montanans are relying on that may expire
in 2019 if we do nothing. Supporting I-185 supports Montanans and will
help keep rural hospitals open so people across the state have access
to the care they need.
However, we must acknowledge that we all need to do more to improve awareness
and education around the impacts of tobacco use. We as a Bozeman Health
family can do better. We all recognize the dangers – people we know
smoke and we certainly don’t think badly about them – but
we do care about their health. And we must be honest – if an increase
in the tobacco tax encourages careteam members to rethink their use of
tobacco because of the increased price, that’s years added to a
healthy life and potentially a life saved. If you’re looking for
opportunities to help quit, please let us know. We’re taking a bold
stance and we have resource that are available to you through our engaged
health plan to help.
So, don’t be deceived by Big Tobacco. Medicaid expansion has saved
the State of Montana millions of dollars and will continue to pay for
itself through state savings and the funds raised by I-185. It has also
helped you, your friends, and your neighbors by reducing medical debts,
preventing bankruptcies, and improving credit scores among working families.
It’s time for us all to make our voices heard – not only to
save those we love, but also in support of a healthier Montana and a brighter
future for our kids.
Please join me in voting YES on I-185 this November.
My very best -
President and CEO