As much fun as Grubergate is for the conservative media and Obamacare’s detractors, Weeggate is far more important for Idaho taxpayers.
On Friday, Idaho Gov. Butch Otter’s handpicked Medicaid working group voted for the third time to expand government health care—but it doesn’t seem to want you to know that.
Dr. Stephen Weeg, a director for Health West in Pocatello, told his panel colleagues that while the state should expand Medicaid, stakeholders shouldn’t use the terms “expand Medicaid” or “Medicaid expansion” to describe the committee’s actions.
“Expanding Medicaid sounds like status quo too much,” Weeg said as he cast his vote to swell the ranks of the government insurance program.
Instead, the good doctor suggested, panel members should focus on the personal responsibility aspects of the new plan.
To be sure, Weeg has a point.
Department of Health and Welfare Director Dick Armstrong crafted a reform plan that adds 103,000 people to the state’s Medicaid system, 78,000 of whom would take part in a managed-care plan. In that arrangement, doctors and patients would work together to manage care and prevent bigger and costlier procedures.
Armstrong wants to put all of Idaho’s other 250,000 Medicaid recipients on a managed-care system. He believes the model will save millions or billions of dollars over the long run.
But a few uncomfortable facts remain, despite the reform effort. The plan will still increase health-care spending by the federal government. It will make 103,000 more Idahoans—childless adults for whom the program was never meant to provide care—more reliant on expensive government welfare programs.
And, though Armstrong believes his reform plan will save the state and local budgets a combined $173 million through the next decade, it shifts the costs of welfare programs from us to our grandchildren. With the federal government borrowing hundreds of billions of dollars annually, that’s the logical end point of asking the feds to pick up the tab for new spending here in Idaho.
Of course, Weeg isn’t the first to try to reframe the debate and cloud the issue.
The Idaho Association for Commerce and Industry dubbed expansion “Medicaid Redesign” to make it more palatable to skeptical Idahoans. And Armstrong, singing praises of his plan, emphasizes the potential $1 billion in savings for Idaho taxpayers, but ignored the new federal spending.
Perhaps Weeg and Armstrong, along with the vested industry interests who can drop six figures on ad buys, hope the “stupidity of the American voter,” as described by Jon Gruber, extends to Idaho.
Let’s hope not.