Conservative Health Policy Experts Warn Against Medicaid Expansion

Five conservative health policy experts disputed a widely cited study claiming Ohio would save $1.4 billion from 2014-2022 by expanding Medicaid eligibility. Opportunity Ohio published their comments on January 18, following positive coverage of the Health Policy Institute of Ohio (HPIO) study at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Columbus Dispatch, and elsewhere.

“The Urban Institute says expanding Medicaid will cost Ohio $6.6 billion over 10 years,” wrote Michael Cannon, Cato Institute Director of Health Policy Studies. “But my colleague Jagadeesh Gokhale, Senior Fellow at Cato, has run the numbers for around 10 states and found the costs are usually 2-3 times what the Urban Institute estimates.”

Cannon continued, “Either way, Congress doesn’t have the money to keep up its end of the bargain, and President Barack Obama has advocated shifting more of the cost of Medicaid to the states, including the cost of this expansion.”

At publication, national debt stands at more than $16.4 trillion. Washington has run annual deficits in excess of $1 trillion every year since President Obama took office.

“The Medicaid expansion is therefore an example of ‘predatory federalism,’ where Washington uses a low introductory rate to encourage states to adopt a program, and then changes the terms once states have taken the bait,” he added.

“Even if states were facing deadlines and armed with all the regulatory guidance they need (neither of which is the case), states cannot afford to expand Medicaid,” Cannon wrote.

He concluded, “Rejecting the Medicaid expansion would reduce federal deficits and would reduce total government spending even more.”

For analysis from Grace-Marie Turner, Nina Owcharenko, Edmund F. Haislmaier, and Drew Gonshorowski, refer to the complete Opportunity Ohio release.

The HPIO study released on January 15 downplayed the long term cost to Ohio taxpayers of expanding Medicaid eligibility to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s called-for ceiling of 133 percent of the federal poverty line. Fiscal reality appeared to have little impact on the study’s positive take on increasing spending for the already unaffordable entitlement program.

“The study also says enrolling more people in Medicaid, which is partially paid for by the federal government, would reduce the number of uninsured, get more people working because they’re healthy, bring counties more sales tax revenue and reduce costs to employers who otherwise would be paying to insure the working poor,” Columbus Business First reported.

Plain Dealer reporter Sarah Jane Tribble introduced a January 15 story about the HPIO study by writing, “Ohio’s state budget could benefit from expanding Medicaid, according to a new non-partisan report released Tuesday morning.”

In a separate Plain Dealer story published the same day, Tribble wrote, “An expansion of Medicaid could mean a $1.4 billion net gain for Ohio’s budget by 2022, along with health insurance for an additional 456,000 residents, according to a non-partisan report released Tuesday.”

Two days earlier, Tribble reported on health care lobbyists’ support for expanding Medicaid while also quoting a representative of Greater Cleveland Congregations (GCC), a progressive group that co-opts religion in the name of bigger government. GCC is part of the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), a national organization founded by infamous community organizer Saul Alinsky.

[Editor’s note, 02/15/2013: Corrected the PPACA Medicaid ceiling figure to 133 percent of the federal poverty line from the widely-reported but inaccurate 138 percent.]

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