Medicaid Expansion Debate Should Deal With Facts, Not Falsehoods

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A recent guest column by Ken Johnson purporting to make the case for Medicaid expansion is actually an odd collection of false and misleading claims put forth to justify a large expansion of a government program and benefit the business he runs.

Mr. Johnson said that an expansion would bring $400 million into Kansas. But, this would happen at an estimated 10-year cost to Kansans’ of $13 billion; $10.8 billion in new debt, $1.6 billion in interest on that debt and $625 million in state funds. Citizens will pay those bills, not government; government is merely the collection agent.

Every penny of incremental federal spending on Obamacare and Medicaid expansion comes from borrowed money. There is no pot of money being divided between participating states. If more money is spent in Kansas, that money comes from increasing the national debt. Mr. Johnson knows that other states do not receive more money by virtue of Kansas not expanding Medicaid.

Several other contentions made by Mr. Johnson seem to be little more than fabrications or a willful disregard for facts. First, Mr. Johnson spends very little time actually discussing health outcomes from Medicaid. He spends most of his time touting the benefit to hospitals of more federal money. This may be because a recent study by economists from Harvard and MIT showed that many health outcomes for Oregon Medicaid enrollees actually worsened. Second, The Kansas economy continues to expand despite weather-related challenges to farmers, soft oil prices and global issues affecting the aviation industry.  Private sector GDP still increased 3.7 percent last year and Kansas was ranked #21 for private sector job growth.

Mr. Johnson’s economic development argument (creating jobs and expanding the workforce) ignores a basic principle of economics – the unseen consequence on income redistribution. A job that is funded or ‘created’ by expanding a government program displaces economic activity that would have occurred if taxes hadn’t been extracted to fund the program.
There is no question that reforms are need to make health care more affordable and accessible, but more Obamacare isn’t the answer.

If legislators seriously want to make health care more affordable and more accessible, there are several things they could do, such as restore Individual and Small-Group market rules, broaden the definition of a group so that more people can qualify for group rates and permit interstate insurance competition. That is the real business case for reforming health care.

Read a version of this commentary in the Hutchinson News here.

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