Wyoming has been fortunate to have in Gov. Matt Mead a leader who has been a strong force against ObamaCare. He???s gone so far as suing the federal government after the overreaching health care law was passed. But now that we???ve seen the stalwart leader give a soft endorsement to the Wyoming Department of Health???s ???Strategy for Health, Access, Responsibility and Employment??? (SHARE) ObamaCare Medicaid expansion plan, it???s time for the legislature to step up and the people to start asking questions.
Why would a conservative leader like Gov. Mead want to expand Medicaid welfare to working-age adults, especially when Wyoming voters stand so strongly against it? November???s election demonstrated that the people don???t support ObamaCare and voted for majorities that promised to repeal it. Voters want to finally stop this ObamaCare train wreck, not expand it.
Sadly we???ve seen too many stalwart conservative governors become enticed by President Obama???s promises of ???free??? money from the feds and helping the needy. But we can look around us at all of the states who are already struggling to cope with their expansion plans. And it doesn???t matter if it???s a regular expansion or a customized one, like the Wyoming???s SHARE plan. They are all wreaking havoc on the budgets, economies, and health care systems of the states who have passed them.
That???s why Wyoming deserves real answers, the truth, about what expanding Medicaid would do to the state. I???m not talking about the prepared statements and the talking points of all the lobbyists working hard to give the hospitals more of your money; I???m talking about what we can see every day if we look around us.
Here are five questions you deserve to have answered about Medicaid expansion:
Who will this help?
Expanding Medicaid under ObamaCare will allow the states to provide comprehensive health insurance at no cost to those earning an income below 138 percent of the federal poverty level. What that really means is that Wyoming will be adding tens of thousands of able-bodied, working-age, childless adults who are in their productive prime. These aren???t the people we should be trapping into a cycle of government dependency.
What might be even more alarming is the Department of Justice says one-third of all newly eligible people inMedicaid expansions states have a criminal history. A number of expansion states have already gone so far as to enroll people while they???re in prison. So if you rob someone in an expansion state, you can look forward to gold-plated healthcare on your way out the prison gates.
Who will this hurt?
Patients, plain and simple. The states are already having to make choices that sacrifice patient care for program costs. Chloe Jones, a 14-year old from Arkansas, has been denied care by state officials because their Medicaid program is too strapped to pay for her desperately-needed treatment. The money is instead going to the thousands of working-age adults Arkansas added to Medicaid under their multi-billion dollar expansion program.
Even patients whose care is covered are having a hard time finding a doctor. Medicaid enrollment in Nevada went from 330,000 people in Sept. 2013, to over 600,000 in Aug. 2014 under their expansion. But the number of doctors didn???t increase by 50 percent. That means patients are having to wait months to see someone, and even after they get an appointment, are experiencing all-day waits.
This is on top of the erosion of care for our seniors, who will have their Medicare services cut by $716 Billion to help fund Medicaid expansion in the states.
How will this impact doctors?
Doctors are already seeing reimbursement rates drop. Dr. Andrew Pasternak, who runs a family practice in Reno, Nevada, claims his payments for basic office visits will drop from $75 to around $44. He???s already seeing seen a2,000 percent increase of Medicaid enrollees in his practice from last year, but he may stop seeing them altogether if the payments drop so much.
How much will this cost?
Pro-ObamaCare politicians love to complain Wyoming is missing out on ???free??? money from the federal government, but is that really true? Even the feds get their money from you, the taxpayer. To pay for their share of Wyoming they would have to either take more from you or cut back on services they are providing, or worse, both. But the federal money won???t be enough to cover the costs to Wyoming, even when you factor in additional economic benefits like job growth and additional tax revenue. Troy University researchers found expanding Medicaid in Alabama will costthe state nearly $250 million after the first three years. How many teachers will Wyoming have to fire and how many schools will they close if they experience similar massive costs?
That???s probably why President Obama???s Department of Health and Human Services cooked the books and lied about costs when pushing Arkansas to expand Medicaid, according to the Government Accountability Office.
What happens if we don’t expand?
We will preserve our health care system and keep our doctors accessible to patients. We will not have to sacrifice the care of our needy children and the elderly to pay for premium health care for convicts. We will save Wyoming from a financial albatross that would destroy so many other valuable state services.
And contrary to popular belief, we will even save our hospitals from having to cover increasing uncompensated charity care. When Maine expanded its Medicaid population, their hospitals saw uncompensated charity care charges jump from $67 million in 2002 to nearly $200 million in 2011, even though they added 25,000 people to Medicaid during that time.
You deserve to know the truth about Medicaid expansion and what it would really mean for Wyoming. These are the questions you should be asking of every representative asking for your support of Medicaid expansion. Wyoming deserves more than ruinous political rhetoric. You deserve real answers.
Tarren Bragdon is CEO for the Foundation for Government Accountability.