For Christmas, let’s give a better gift than Medicaid


December 23, 2014 3:06PM

It’s the giving season, and we should take this time to think about those in need. Those advocating for expanding Medicaid in our state claim to be doing just that. What’s better than free health insurance for thousands of low-income Tennesseans? Well, plenty actually. That’s because the “free” coverage we are planning to offer those Tennesseans is really, really bad. Take, for example, a study of the Oregon Medicaid program, which found that those enrolled in Medicaid had no better health outcomes than those who were uninsured. And also consider that those we are pushing onto the government program will have a hard time finding a doctor. Two-in-five Tennessee doctors refuse to see new Medicaid patients. That’s a lower physician participation rate than any state besides California, New Jersey, and Florida. It’s noble to want to help those truly in need. But to expand Medicaid to mostly able-bodied, childless adults is not the way to test an already strained government program. Plus, it deters those able-bodied, childless adults from working and kicks the can down the road on real reforms that will drive down the cost of health insurance and make it more affordable for them long-term. While President Obama, Governor Haslam, and just about every special interest group in the healthcare industry are rallying for us to expand Medicaid to these Tennesseans, I urge them to be wary of what they’re being sold. Two years of welfare on a program with dismal results paid for by their children and grandchildren will not be the gift of a lifetime. We can do better. -Justin Owen