A Rebuttal to the Tennessean’s Medicaid Piece
BY JUSTIN OWEN
I have a great deal of respect for the Tennessean’s David Plazas. He is a good journalist, has been fair to Beacon in his coverage of our work, and did a great job moderating a recent debate on Insure Tennessee. But he was just sold a bill of goods by the Obama administration.
In a recent article, David outlined a Q&A with President Obama’s Health and Human Services (HHS) Department. In the interview, HHS made some claims that just don’t hold water. Here are a few, along with the facts to refute them.
Claim 1: HHS claims that Medicaid expansion improves access to care.
But then they immediately admit that those added to the government insurance rolls only report “being in good (or better health).” That’s because there is no proof that Medicaid can actually deliver better health outcomes. Of course, giving someone an insurance card does not automatically guarantee him or her better health. In fact, the only comprehensive study on Medicaid expansion comes from Oregon and shows that while people added to the Medicaid rolls feel better about their health, they are no more healthy than those who were not enrolled in the program. That’s why we are focused on reforms that actually address Tennesseans’ restricted access to quality healthcare, rather than mere insurance.
Claim 2: HHS claims Tennessee is missing out on billions of dollars in federal funding by rejecting a Medicaid expansion.
If HHS has found a magic money tree, then it needs to alert the rest of the federal government. Washington has been operating at a deficit for quite some time, racking up more than $18 trillion in debt. That amounts to more than $154,000 that each U.S. taxpayer owes, and the number is only growing. So when HHS claims that Tennessee is “missing out” on all this free money, a logical question is where will that money come from? Since we don’t have enough money today to pay the extra costs of expanding Medicaid in Tennessee, the answer is simple: it will be borrowed from countries like China, to be paid back by our children and grandchildren, with interest. Every state that refuses to expand its Medicaid program will actually save taxpayers, Tennesseans among them, billions of dollars each year.
Claim 3: HHS claims states that expand Medicaid boost their economies by billions.
Again, they say this as if it is new money that didn’t already exist somewhere. In reality, that money existed in the pockets of other residents, who shelled it out in taxes, or it is borrowed money that will never make it into the pockets of our children and grandchildren. Every time government spends money—including to expand Medicaid—it spends your money. Government doesn’t have money; it all comes from you. While some, such as multi-billion dollar hospitals, will get a financial windfall from a Medicaid expansion, other taxpayers will have less money as a result. Studies that analyze the full picture show a Medicaid expansion in Tennessee would cost the average household $1,148 in income, or cost more than 67,000 Tennesseans their jobs. That doesn’t sound like an economic boon to me.
The Obama administration is good at sticking to its nuanced talking points, but when you start to peel back the onion’s layers, it begins to stink. Bottom line: an expansion of Medicaid is unaffordable and immoral. Rather than fret over decisions past on costly expansions that don’t work, it’s time we all come together to expand access to quality healthcare for all Tennesseans.