Help ensure our seniors, vets continue to have health care

Thursday, August 30, 2018
Article Image Alt Text

Guest Opinion

This fall, we have the opportunity to ensure that nearly 100,000 Montanans including our seniors, veterans and their families continue to have health care. If we do not pass the Healthy Montana Initiative or I-185 hardworking Montanans could be harmed.

Kudos to all the health care associations that were proactive in designing I-185, with funding provided through an increase in the tobacco tax. It prevents cuts to Medicaid including services to veterans, children, seniors and people with disabilities. I-185 would also:

• Help seniors and people with disabilities live independently and remain in their homes and communities avoiding the high cost of nursing homes;

• Provide funding for prescription drug coverage for seniors;

• Help keep rural hospitals open, ensuring access to care for families in small towns and rural communities;

• Help Montana and our public safety agencies cope with the increased demand for mental health and substance abuse treatment as the result of the ongoing opioid crisis. (Medicaid is the single largest payer for mental health services in the U.S. and increasingly plays a larger role in the reimbursement of substance use disorder treatment).

• Provide vital funding for veteran suicide prevention programs.

• Fund programs that prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit.

I’ve spent most of my career in public safety working to ensure the safety and security of Montanans. I now have the pleasure of advocating for the health and financial security of our seniors and veterans.

The safety and security challenges seniors face are very real. They generally see the health care system as broken, confusing and always in transition. Most of us do too.

I worry that the system is ill equipped to handle the aging population in Montana. I’ve heard seniors say that they fear that they are one financial crisis away from poverty or food insecurity. One unexpected health crisis without healthcare coverage could make that situation a reality for many seniors throughout the state of Montana. Ask around. Someone you know has quietly faced this scenario and probably turned to Medicaid. Chances are, you, a family member or a friend will someday, too.

For many Montana seniors, Medicaid means access to basic Health care. Older Montanans should never have to forgo care and choose between paying prescriptions and life necessities like food.

This fall, let’s make sure elected officials understand the role of Medicaid in safeguarding health security in Montana. Please vote yes on I-185.

Mike Batista is the Director of Advocacy and Outreach, AARP Montana. Find more information at