Governor Steve Bullock appeared at Community Medical Center on Wednesday to promote the passage of I-185, the initiative  that would permanently fund the Medicaid expansion.

Officials from Community Medical Center, the Neo-Natal Health Care Unit, Western Montana Clinic and others spoke of the benefits of Medicaid expansion, and the risk of allowing over 100,000 to lose their Medicaid benefits, should I-185 not pass and Medicaid expansion be allowed to sunset in 2019.

Bullock said tobacco companies are going all out to defeat the bill because it would add a two dollar tax per pack of cigarettes.

“Just yesterday we learned one of these companies have spent three times more to defeat I-185 than any opposition committee’s total spending on ballot initiatives in our state’s history. Think about this. $12 million dollars. 100,000 Montanans now have healthcare because of Medicaid expansion. They are spending about $120 dollars for each one of those Montanans to try to take their healthcare away from them.”

Bullock attempted to debunk a claim made by opponents of 1-185 that it would create an ‘unfunded mandate’ that the state would have to pick up.

“I-185 fully funds the state’s share of Medicaid expansion, that’s Medicaid expansion for 100,000 Montanans,” he said. “Let me say that again, because it seems a little confused on television. It fully funds what the state has to pay, so the idea that there’s some unfunded mandate out there is complete baloney.”

Bullock said Medicaid expansion has already benefited the state’s economy.

“Not just those 100,000 Montanans have benefited from Medicaid expansion,” he said. “Our economy has benefited, as well. Medicaid expansion has created 5,000 new jobs with nearly $300,000 in personal income, and has infused $500 million into our economy that otherwise wouldn’t be there.”

Virtually every healthcare organization in the state has endorsed I-185, due to the expansion of Medicaid.