Every week for nearly a decade, I’ve written a column that appears in the media throughout Idaho. I appreciate those open-minded news outlets that have given space to share the Idaho Freedom Foundation’s vision for the future, one that embraces an Idaho where fewer people are dependent on government.
Unfortunately, many of Idaho’s media hold the opposite view, and seemingly cannot be bothered to give a fair and impartial look at Medicaid expansion. Indeed, many news organizations have devoted more column inches advocating for Medicaid expansion, a key component of Obamacare, than they have devoted to explaining why someone might oppose it.
In the six years since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states could choose whether to expand Medicaid under Obamacare, the major newspapers in Idaho have been vocal in their support of expansion or other proposals to provide government services to the so-called “gap population.” During the last three election cycles, reporters and editors have quizzed candidates on their support for, or opposition to, Medicaid expansion. The media have given props to the pro-expansion candidates and often denied endorsements to conservatives who opposed expansion. Between elections and legislative sessions, editorial pages have been filled with one op-ed after another about how more people should get taxpayer-paid health insurance.
As noted in my commentary last week, the media practically cheered as Medicaid-expansion advocates collected enough signatures to put the issue to a public vote in November.
But now is the time to pause the posturing. There are legitimate problems and legitimate negatives that come from adding some 50,000 people onto Medicaid. These aren’t just drawbacks dreamed up by libertarian and conservative thinkers. These are fiscal issues and more that impact the health and finances of real people. There are also tradeoffs that should give pause to even the most ardent supporters of government-run healthcare. The fact is: Vital government services, including public schools, would compete for the same funds Medicaid expansion would consume.
Idahoans should hear both sides of the debate. Idahoans should know the arguments against making more people dependent on government-run healthcare as much as they hear the arguments for it. The media should help Idahoans learn about the plausible private, voluntary alternatives when it comes to helping people in need.
Reporters should examine why states that have already gone down this path have wildly underestimated the costs associated with Medicaid expansion. Reporters are encouraged to dig into the facts about the cumulative impacts that existing entitlement programs are having on the nation and its ballooning debt load. Idahoans would benefit from an open discussion of the pros and cons of millions of taxpayer dollars going to able-bodied adults—when the money could fund education and infrastructure.
I don’t expect my media friends to change their minds about the proper role of government. But they’d perform a heck of a service if they would simply report objectively on this critical issue. So I urge them: Please stop advocating for expansion. Let the Medicaid proponents speak for themselves. Let the public also hear the negatives of expansion and about better ways to help people in need.