It is rare that a government program, once started, ever goes away. No matter how bad or how useless the program is, once enacted, it tends to linger well past its sell-by date. But here’s a little good news from the 2023 Idaho legislative session: One program has been eliminated, saving taxpayers thousands of dollars.
The program is the state’s Maternal Mortality Review Committee. The Legislature and Gov. Brad Little created the committee in 2019 with the support of the very lefty Idaho Medical Association (IMA). At the time, the IMA said the committee would help identify the causes of preventable deaths in pregnant and postpartum women. But we warned that the program would do little except be used as a vehicle to promote more government intervention in health care, and we were right.
Each year after its formation, the committee released reports arguing for more government — in particular, the expansion of Medicaid to include women up to 12 months after the delivery of their babies and prioritizing subsidized housing for women. The committee also argued for just about every other government intervention, including tougher seatbelt laws (because, apparently, an unbelted woman was killed in a car accident sometime after her pregnancy).
Idaho Freedom Foundation legislative affairs director Fred Birnbaum told lawmakers that the committee was basically puzzling over 10 or 11 deaths out of 22,000 live births per year — in other words, not a lot. And, he said, much of what is needed to be known about those deaths is already known. The answers, Birnbaum said, are pretty obvious, not requiring a government study panel.
The 2019 legislation creating the committee contained a sunset clause causing it to expire in 2023 unless extended by the Legislature. A bill to let the committee’s work continue quietly died in the House Health and Welfare Committee. The panel’s demise also means we won’t need to be taking money from the federal CDC to operate it, which is another win. Equally exciting is that the mortality review board’s proposal to expand Medicaid to postpartum women also failed to move forward.
I doubt that this Legislature would have had the votes to pass a bill to repeal the government program outright. The only reason the program ended is because of the sunset clause that caused it to expire. But at least it’s one exception to Ronald Reagan’s warning that there’s nothing on earth as eternal as a government program.
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