Sunday, February 17, 2013

Resistance to Kasich Medicaid Expansion Grows

A number of things pop out at you in this Columbus Dispatch article that are worthy of further commentary, but let's start with the fact that conservatives in the GOP caucus have stated -- in open testimony -- that they oppose the governor on this issue. That, in and of itself, is a HUGE accomplishment.
During more than six hours of testimony before a House committee, Republicans made it clear that their opposition to President Barack Obama’s health-care law trumps the Kasich administration’s stance that the expansion will save Ohio taxpayers $404 million over the next two years.

“Clearly, this is an unsustainable position for the federal government, and there will be a day of reckoning,” said Rep. Robert Sprague, R-Findlay. “We will either have higher tax rates as American citizens or our borrowing power will be reduced as a nation.”
The federal government's problems are a concern and I am pleased to hear that some state legislators understand that when the federal government is in trouble eventually those dilemmas will reach down to the state level.

But I think focusing too much on this is a trap that should be avoided. Expanding Medicaid while relying on federal taxpayer dollars to do it is BAD for Ohio, not good as Team Kasich suggests here:
Greg Moody, director of the Governor’s Office of Health Transformation, told the House Finance Committee that Kasich supports a balanced federal budget but that expanding Medicaid is a good deal for Ohio.

“Would I rather take the money and not spend it and drive down the deficit? Absolutely, but that’s not a choice,” Moody told lawmakers.

Under Obama’s health-care law, the federal government for three years would pay all costs to expand Medicaid to those with incomes up to 138 percent of the poverty level — about $23,000 a year for a family of four. The federal match decreases over the next several years to 90 percent of the cost.

The expansion would provide coverage to more low-income uninsured, allowing them to meet the requirement beginning in 2014 that most Americans have health insurance or face a penalty. In addition, it would free up local money for mental-health and addiction services, shift some state costs for prison health care to Medicaid and generate other savings.
Let's start with Moody's dodge. Of course, using that money to pay off some national debt isn't an option. Mentioning that here is simply a diversion from the issue at hand. Ohio can't afford even a 10% increase in spending on Medicaid even in the long term. We are just now beginning to see a recovery from the Taft and Strickland eras and we're going to risk that progress on some scheme from Obama? That just doesn't sound like a good play to me.

Moving on to the "politics as usual" portion of this article:
Moody said Kasich, like many of his fellow Republicans, opposes much of Obama’s Affordable Care Act, but he’s pushing to expand Medicaid because “it’s making the most of a hand we’ve been dealt."
the thing about most card games is that you also have the option of "passing" or "folding" until you get better odds. Team Kasich has a way of playing bad hands in worse situations and just hoping for the best. That simply won't do...

Here's more politics as usual:
“If we don’t do this, we are subsidizing other states,” said Rep. Mike Foley, D-Cleveland.

Moody concurred, noting that Ohioans pay taxes to the federal government that will finance Medicaid expansions in states that decide to increase program eligibility.

“If we don’t spend it, it’s not like that money will be saved. We are still paying it in our federal taxes,” he said. “The question is: Is the money coming back to Ohio, or is it going somewhere else?”
The 527 Media and low information voters might buy this argument, but it is NOT a reason to put your own state finances in jeopardy. Should we just do whatever California does? How about New York? Why not just abdicate the governance of our state to Illinois? This sort of thinking is just passing the buck. Ohio deserves better from its leaders.

But the truly insulting thing about this argument is that it is the same tired Washington DC thinking that we have heard from virtually every Congressman we've ever sent there. I am reminded of a local politician saying at a Tea Party rally that he was against pork, unless it was coming to his district because that money was going to be spent anyway. He didn't say it in those exact words, but the meaning was clear as day.

Fiscal responsibility begins at home, people.

Here is another position that I find lacking:
Rep. Gerald Stebelton, R-Lancaster, suggested that Ohio hold out to “negotiate a better deal” with the federal government.

“The best leverage we have with the federal government is to opt out.”
We don't want to deal with the federal government at all. All 88 counties in this state voted to reject all forms of Obamacare with the Health Care Freedom Amendment. Allowing a backdoor entry in to that dreaded program is not only unacceptable it is against our state's constitution.

But, if that is an argument that will sway a politician to vote NO, I'll take it for now.

The bottom line is this: Team Kasich is going to need every single Democrat vote in order to get this passed. What else will Team Kasich have to give Chris Redfern in order to make that happen?

The Medicaid expansion proposal should be removed from the budget and buried in whatever hole it originated never to be heard from again.