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Time to reconsider Idaho’s involvement in Medicaid

Time to reconsider Idaho’s involvement in Medicaid

Wayne Hoffman
May 15, 2023

A ton of people have written critically of the state’s medical welfare program because of its astronomical cost, the number of people getting benefits who shouldn’t be, or the program being used for unconscionable procedures such as sex change hormone treatments.

Those are all valid for ending Medicaid. There is no law that requires a state to keep the program going. And for politicians, Medicaid is no small reason their constituents complain that buildings and bridges, which are part of the state’s critical infrastructure, are in disrepair and why taxes are so damn high. Medicaid’s list of medications and procedures — and the number of people using those programs — keeps going up. 

But Medicaid is a big piece of the funding going to the medical-industrial complex, and hospitals, doctors, and pharmaceuticals give a lot of money in return to politicians to keep the gravy train flowing. Even right now, as the words of this commentary leap off the pages and into the brains of the hospital and medical association lobbyists reading them, they’re in a panic that legislators might even entertain the idea of terminating Medicaid, and they will be looking for ways to defend their pile of gold.    

Medicaid is provably harmful. Legislators have to talk about it. 

Throughout human history and up until the 20th century, neighbors depended on one another to meet their needs. Secondary to neighbors were churches and mutual aid societies. Only since the Great Society of 1965 have neighborly obligations, mutual aid societies, churches, and other community resources been supplanted by government programs, especially Medicaid.

Turns out, those community connections are an important part of our well-being. Hundreds of papers have been written on the physical and mental health impacts of being disconnected from communities. Summarizing those findings in a 2023 government report, the U.S. surgeon general said, “Throughout history, our ability to rely on one another has been crucial to survival. … Over four decades of research has produced robust evidence that lacking social connection—and in particular, scoring high on measures of social isolation—is associated with a significantly increased risk for early death from all causes.”

Yet Medicaid replaces helpful neighbors, churches, and mutual aid societies — connections that were part of the human experience until very recently — with detached bureaucracies, policies, and formularies. 

The Biden administration’s top health expert, a government official, predictably recommended more governmental programs to help solve the problem that government played a part in creating. 

If only that weren’t enough of a case against medical welfare: About 60 percent of the psychotropic drugs prescribed in Idaho — those being depression and anxiety medications — come through the Medicaid system. Yet evidence continues to mount that all that awaits the mental health patient is a lifetime regimen of prescription refills to treat symptoms of unresolved mental health problems.

Medicaid, like much of the medical-industrial complex, refuses to acknowledge the therapeutic value of improved nutrition, exercise, and human interaction. And because Medicaid is controlled by the medical-industrial complex, entheogens and other earth-based medicines and treatment modalities are completely off the table, despite having been demonstrated to help with an array of conditions

Since implementing Medicaid in 1965, there has never been a comprehensive study by the Legislature of the efficacy of the program. A legislative committee to study Medicaid is tasked only with figuring out whether a managed care approach would save costs, not whether Medicaid should continue. 

After close to 60 years, it’s well past time to start looking at the evidence that proves Idaho would serve its residents better by getting out of Medicaid altogether. 

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