The contents of a March 15 Universal Health Care Action Network of Ohio (UHCAN Ohio) web training for progressive activists interested in lobbying for Medicaid expansion bore a striking resemblance to talking points from Governor John Kasich and his administration.
Kasich, a Republican, has decided to pursue billions in new federal funding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) promises to states that expand Medicaid eligibility. UHCAN Ohio is a socialized medicine lobbying group that helped the governor develop rhetoric supporting the PPACA Medicaid expansion prior to his February 4 budget announcement.
UHCAN Ohio, like the Kasich administration, aims to convince legislators that nothing they do can stop “Ohio’s” PPACA Medicaid expansion funding from being spent – although there is no “Ohio” PPACA Medicaid expansion funding, because every state that expands Medicaid will add to Washington’s deficit spending.
“We should want to reduce the federal deficit, but we have to do it in a way that also strengthens our state economy and builds our workforce,” UHCAN Ohio Executive Director Cathy Levine told activists on March 15. “The Medicaid expansion is an investment that will actually, you know, generate a lot of new taxes, get more people to work. The other thing about the Medicaid expansion is the dollars that come to Ohio from the Medicaid expansion are tax dollars that we’ve already paid, and the money was actually generated in the Affordable Care Act by changes in Medicare which have bipartisan support.”
“You know, if we don’t use that money, it’s not like we could say ‘oh, don’t give us the Medicaid expansion, we want it applied to the federal deficit,’ it doesn’t work that way. We just, we won’t get the money, it’ll be spent somehow, some other way,” Levine concluded.
In addition to repeating the timeless progressive fantasy that federal spending is “free” money that creates net benefits – as if tax revenues materialize from thin air – Levine conflated debt and deficits.
Washington has run annual deficits of more than $1 trillion every year since President Obama took office. The national debt is more than $16.7 trillion.
“Would I rather we take the money, and not spend it, and draw down the federal debt? Absolutely. But that is not within my range of ability, and not within the range of a governors ability to do,” Governor’s Office of Health Transformation Director Greg Moody insisted during February 14 House testimony. “If we dont spend it, it is not as if that money is going to be somehow saved. We are still paying that in our federal taxes. The question is, is it coming back to Ohio, or is it going somewhere else.”
“We should not shoot ourselves in the foot and send our tax dollars to another state to be spent,” Kasich said during his State of the State speech, adding, “if we dont do what we should do on Medicaid, theyll be spending it in California. You count on it.”
Kasich continued, “We have an unprecedented opportunity to bring $13 billion of Ohios tax dollars back to Ohio to solve our problem! Our money coming home to fix our problems! Its a unique opportunity. Weve never gotten our fair share.”
Both the governor and the socialized medicine lobbying group seek to pigeonhole opponents as callous ideologues.
“In terms of who opposes the Medicaid expansion,” Levine explained on March 15, “it’s a small group of, of interest groups who oppose – not only the Affordable Care Act, because a lot of people who oppose the Affordable Care Act still support the Medicaid expansion – these are folks who are way to the right, out of the mainstream of Ohio voters, who just don’t believe in government, don’t care if people don’t have health coverage, because they don’t have a viable alternative for expanding coverage.
“For those that live in the shadows of life, those who are the least among us, I will not accept the fact that the most vulnerable in our state should be ignored. We can help them – and I want all of you to think about this,” Kasich told the Ohio General Assembly while pitching the PPACA Medicaid expansion during his February 19 State of the State address.
Likewise, UHCAN Ohio instructed activists to push the Kasich administration narrative that PPACA Medicaid expansion is necessary, as Levine summarized her response to concerns that Ohio cannot afford the expansion by saying, “the fact of the matter is we can’t afford not to do it.”
Governor Kasich, long a critic of deficit spending, deliberately crafted his two-year budget plan around billions in optional spending from a federal government more than $16.7 trillion in debt.
Levine assured viewers of the March 15 web training that Kasich was pressuring Ohio House members to pass the PPACA Medicaid expansion.
“They’ve heard from lobbyists, I mean, the hospitals, from all the other lobbyist groups – and they’ve heard from the governor’s office, the governor’s office has lobbied every one of them, repeatedly,” she said. “They need to hear from people.”
At the end of the hour-long training for progressive activists, Levine stressed the importance of lobbying legislators with the same talking points used by Governor Kasich.
“What’s happening is that local Tea Party groups are threatening to challenge Republicans in their primaries if they vote for the Medicaid expansion,” Levine said. “So the governor can tell them, can talk till he’s blue in the face, he’s not gonna – he can’t determine whether they’re gonna lose in a primary. So, you know, it makes people nervous, and we need to give them a reason to do the right thing and not worry about a primary challenge.”
[Editor’s note, 03/25/2013: I bumped up Cathy Levine’s full name & title to the 4th paragraph from later in the story – something I failed to catch after changing the order of several quotes while drafting the piece.]