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Rusche was wrong on Obamacare and now is wrong on Medicaid expansion

Rusche was wrong on Obamacare and now is wrong on Medicaid expansion

Fred Birnbaum
October 20, 2016
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October 20, 2016

Back in 2010, Idaho Rep. John Rusche trumpeted the arrival of the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare. On his campaign website, Rusche mentioned that the U.S., as a society, “pays 50 to 100 percent more than many of our international counterparts” for healthcare. He continued, “The national health reform package recently adopted offers an opportunity to expand coverage (which should lower the cost shift to those currently insured) but also to improve the cost of American healthcare.”

Is this fair to bring up, because predictions about new programs are often wrong? Yes, it is fair. Because Rusche, like many Obamacare supporters, is doubling down on Obamacare while the rest of us groan under the weight of huge premium increases.  

Moreover, it must be pointed out, expanding Medicaid was a cornerstone of Obamacare. And, in the Idaho Legislature, Rusche continues to be a leading proponent of Medicaid expansion.

Where to begin?

Let’s start with the repeated claim made way back by President Barack Obama that the average family would see its health insurance premiums decrease by $2,500. Well, according to the government’s own data, The Heritage Foundation reports, since 2013 the national average cumulative increase, for the insurance premiums for individual and small employers, is up 74.6 percent.

Viewed from a different perspective, we see that in 2016 -- for the first time in U.S. history -- healthcare costs as a percentage of national GDP exceeded 18 percent. Thus, insurance premiums and overall healthcare costs are at their highest levels ever. Healthcare costs have not come down under Obamacare as we were promised, and as trumpeted by Rusche.

Given this turn of events one would expect some calibration on the part of Obamacare supporters and Medicaid-expansion enthusiasts.

Not a chance.

Rusche and his colleagues insist that Medicaid expansion makes fiscal sense for Idaho, that expansion will save the state money. Congressional Budget Office data strongly suggests otherwise.

From 2013 to 2016 federal Medicaid expenses were up 41 percent, and the CBO projects over the next decade said expenses are to increase another 69 percent. That alone undercuts Rusche’s cost-saving promise.

With the CBO’s estimated 69 percent cost increase over the next decade, let’s take a couple more damning facts into consideration. First, the federal government currently provides 70 percent of Idaho’s basic Medicaid dollars; as program costs mount, even if we assume Idaho taxpayers will continue to pay just 30 percent of the cost, the absolute dollar amount they will pay will increase.

Second, the feds presently propose to provide a minimum of 90 percent of the funds to expand Medicaid. These numbers underscore the danger Idaho taxpayers face. If the federal government can’t, or won’t, provide continued expansion funding at the 70 and/or 90-percent levels, Idaho taxpayers will be required to pick up an even bigger tab.

Let’s not take the Medicaid bet that Rusche offers: more federal money to prop up the collapsing Obamacare system. The prescription reads: Idaho taxpayers will pay even more when the medical house of cards collapses.

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