Newspapers Ignore Facts Central to Medicaid Expansion Fight

Ohio’s major newspapers have failed to recognize that Governor John Kasich’s case for Medicaid expansion rests on several misleading or outright false claims, reporting Kasich administration statements without asking simple followup questions. Meanwhile, opponents of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) Medicaid expansion are marginalized when acknowledged at all.

On March 13, the Health and Human Services Subcommittee of the Ohio House Finance and Appropriations Committee held an open hearing that included testimony from several conservative policy experts. During a two-hour panel discussion, House members heard from Tarren Bragdon of the Foundation for Government Accountability, Michael Cannon and Jagadeesh Gokhale of the Cato Institute, Ed Haislmaier of The Heritage Foundation, and Robert Alt, the president of The Buckeye Institute.

Bragdon, providing his testimony over Skype, pointed to the experiences of Arizona and Maine for proof that Medicaid expansion outcomes never resemble promised results. Bragdon noted that costs in both states far exceeded projections, while the percentage of the population without health insurance remained nearly unchanged as many patients shifted from private insurance to Medicaid.

In a brief March 14 story titled “Medicaid expansion opposed during Ohio House hearing,” Catherine Candisky of The Columbus Dispatch included only two quotes from the entire five-person panel. Bragdon was not mentioned, so Ohioans relying on the Dispatch for coverage of the Medicaid expansion debate will never know about the points he made or the underlying Foundation for Government Accountability studies.

Responding to a House member’s question about Medicaid expansion being necessary to keep rural hospitals afloat, Alt cited a March 11 Media Trackers analysis which showed that most Ohio hospitals would net millions even without the charity care offsets being phased out by PPACA. Though Ohio Hospital Association suggestions to the contrary have been widely reported, the Media Trackers analysis which Alt recommended to House members has not been reported in the Dispatch or elsewhere.

During his March 13 testimony, Cannon – one of America’s foremost free market health policy experts – refuted two Kasich administration talking points brought to his attention by Media Trackers. Although Cannon was quoted in Candisky’s story, his rebuttal of two Medicaid expansion claims repeatedly made by Governor Kasich has not been reported in the Dispatch or elsewhere.

Cannon clearly stated that “Ohio’s” PPACA Medicaid expansion funding will not go to other states if Ohio rejects the expansion, because there is no “Ohio” funding. PPACA Medicaid expansion funding is an open-ended promise, with each participating state increasing total spending, Cannon explained – as Media Trackers has reported for weeks, and as no newspaper has noted to date.

Cannon also explained to the Health and Human Services Subcommittee and other House members in attendance that the billions per year in “Ohioans’ tax dollars” which Kasich claims the legislature can “keep in Ohio” or “bring back to Ohio” would in fact be deficit spending, ultimately paid for by taxes on all 50 states. This is a point Media Trackers first made on February 18, after Governor’s Office of Health Transformation Director Greg Moody gave false testimony to the House claiming PPACA Medicaid expansion funding would be “Ohio’s” money.

This aspect of Cannon’s testimony should be of particular interest to Ohio reporters, as multiple outlets have quoted the Kasich administration’s assertions without skepticism.

In a February 4 story, the Dayton Daily News cited Kasich’s claim that Ohio must expand Medicaid to “recapture” expansion funding which “would otherwise go to other states.”

“Moody said he would rather not take the money if it would reduce the federal deficit, but that is not an option — Ohio taxpayers pay for the expansion whether or not Ohio participates,” the Dayton Daily News reported on February 14.

Moody’s claims about Medicaid expansion funding were quoted by Candisky in a story published as “GOP chafes at Kasich’s plan to expand Medicaid” in the Dispatch on February 15, and as “Kasich Medicaid plan takes GOP hits” in the Cincinnati Enquirer on February 16.

On February 19, the Enquirer misquoted Kasich as claiming, “This is an unprecedented opportunity to bring $13 billion back to Ohio to fix our problems” in a story about his State of the State address. While that statement would have been misleading, what Kasich actually said – “We have an unprecedented opportunity to bring $13 billion of Ohio’s tax dollars back to Ohio to solve our problem!” – is simply false.

“States opting against expansion would see their residents’ federal tax dollars be used to finance the health coverage of people in other states,” Moody wrote in a March 5 Enquirer editorial. “If Ohio did not expand, the earnings of hard-working Ohioans would soon filter into the economies of other states rather than staying here at home.”

Additionally, Dispatch senior editor Joe Hallett has penned multiple op-ed columns parroting Kasich’s PPACA Medicaid expansion talking points, describing as “fringe” the largest tea party group in the state, and demeaning as “bent on society’s regression” anyone opposed to further ballooning the $16.5 trillion national debt.

On February 27, the Dispatch also printed a pro-expansion editorial from Ohio Right to Life President Michael Gonidakis – without noting that Kasich appointed Gonidakis to the State Medical Board of Ohio four months earlier.

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