Medicaid expansion myths persist

Fred Birnbaum Articles

A handful of Medicaid expansion myths persist in the public sphere, not because they have any factual basis, but rather because Democrats and progressives see these distortions as useful to their political agenda.

Facts are stubborn things, though.

Here are some facts about Idaho’s Medicaid expansion: Thanks to courageous Idaho House conservatives, able-bodied adults will be required to work to receive free (taxpayer-funded) health care. The work provision, which needs federal approval, will help these low-income Idahoans lift themselves from poverty through the most effective vehicle available: meaningful work.

As a side perk, work requirements will keep Medicaid expansion costs lower than they would have been under plans proposed by Big Medicine, Democrats and some liberal Republicans. That’s important because rising expansion costs will eat up state dollars for programs, like public education and the core of Medicaid, which provides coverage for truly vulnerable people, like children and pregnant women.

To correct the record, let’s address three pervasive myths.

First, progressives want you to believe Prop 2 was solely a grassroots initiative.

To believe that, you’d have to ignore the more than $500,000 spent by the Washington, D.C.-based Fairness Project to put Medicaid expansion on last year’s ballot. For the life of me, I can’t find Washington, D.C., on an Idaho map.

You might also recall that wealthy special interests looking for an eternal government paycheck then dumped buckets of cash to sway Idaho voters toward passage. In all, hospitals and the medical community spent more than $1.6 million to fuel slick campaign fliers, expensive TV ads, and massive radio airtime purchases.

Plus, the initiative had Big Media, including the Post Register, in its pocket. Idaho’s press corps coverage bordered on advocacy. It’s unfortunate that we can’t apply a price tag to the media’s in-kind contributions to Prop 2.

Next, progressives want you to believe work requirements conflict with the will of voters.

In the voter pamphlet disseminated ahead of the November election, the pro-Prop 2 arguments touted three times that expansion would aid “working Idahoans.” Why, then, is it unreasonable to ask the state to verify that those capable of working punch the clock? It doesn’t even require 40 hours of work; 20 hours of work or volunteering will give someone free health care.

The Idaho Hospital Association, all statehouse Democrats and a handful of Republicans advocated for “voluntary” work requirements that would have made work optional. Does that work for your employer? Do you still receive a check and insurance benefits if you don’t show up to your job? Such an idea is divorced from reality, especially when Idaho’s economy boasts more job openings than unemployed people.

Finally, progressives want to hoodwink you to believe ordinary Idahoans are the winners under Medicaid expansion.

Big hospitals and other providers, not your neighbors, are the beneficiaries of expansion. They are set to take in more than $350 million a year in state and federal expansion payments. These same hospitals enjoy an exemption from property and sales taxes, provisions crafted in exchange for hospitals delivering uncompensated care to poor Idahoans. Now, hospitals get their cake and can eat it too — and you’re footing the bill.

These are useful myths progressives use to bludgeon responsible conservatives. But that’s all they are: myths.

Medicaid, which continues to gobble up a bigger share of the state budget, steals dollars from schools, corrections, and other programs. With expansion, about one of three state-appropriated dollars will go to Medicaid and progressives will push to increase taxes on small businesses and hard-working Idaho families to cover shortfalls in other programs.

And that’s no myth.

Note: The Post Register first published this article. See that post here.