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If you watch any television, you can’t help seeing advertisements for and against Initiative 185. It’s pretty confusing. I have decided to speak out against the initiate for several important reasons. Before explaining those, I also want to affirm my view that we ought to be willing to help those who aren’t able to help themselves. Montanans have always been generous and caring about their neighbors.

So why should we oppose this initiative? First: Because it's a self-serving proposal advanced by certain providers who want to bypass the legislature to preserve tens of millions in profits.

Why should we care about bypassing the legislature? Because I-185 makes in nearly impossible for the legislature to make reforms to Medicaid Expansion. Reforms such as requiring able-bodied beneficiaries to work. Or having an asset test so millionaires can’t get free benefits. Or reforming the payment system so it’s fair to both providers and taxpayers.

Medicare Expansion has been controversial in Montana and elsewhere. Our legislature and the governor reached a compromise to test expansion for four years with the promise it would be revisited to make sure its working for everyone — particularly for taxpayers. That deal assured the legislature could make changes. I 185 breaks that deal.

And I 185 has serious flaws. Because it was drafted by special interests who were trying to protect their bottom lines, it hasn’t been properly vetted. It has a formidable constitutional flaw, because our Constitution prohibits initiatives that appropriate money.

The initiative also doesn’t raise enough money to pay for its benefits. That means taxpayers will have to pick up the deficit. It means other important programs are at risk. Programs such as public education, law enforcement, infrastructure and public health.

Medicare Expansion is the largest single increase in government spending of our lifetimes. It’s a complicated matter that requires study and compromise. We shouldn’t let one single special-interest group dictate our policy. Particularly, making that dictate permanent. And especially if that interest group has so much to gain at our expense.

For these reasons we should vote “no” on I-185.

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Rick Hill represented Montana in Congress for four years. He lives in Helena.

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