As the fate of Obamacare and its Medicaid expansion program grows bleaker every day in Congress, Wyoming’s Gov. Matt Mead has decided it’s time try and push the massive expansion of welfare on his state once again.
Mead didn’t get the message when the Wyoming legislature rejected his plans in 2015, or when they rejected Obamacare’s expansion a whopping six times in 2014. In fact, the legislature moved to tie Mead’s hands further and ensure he doesn’t act on expansion without their approval.
Wyoming’s legislators have had plenty of reasons to be reticent about expanding Medicaid, as experiences in other states have shown how expensive all that ‘free money’ is.
A recent Forbes article by Josh Archambault and Jonathan Ingram laid out the grim reality of expansion in other states.
“In Ohio, Medicaid expansion ran $1.5 billion over budget in its first 18 months. The state of Washington had to increase its biennium budget by $2.3 billion to deal with higher than expected expansion costs and, having now surpassed even those revised projections, overruns will only continue to climb. Illinois’ expansion ran $800 million over budget in 2014 and has now signed up more able-bodied adults than state official predicted would ever even be eligible. And in Kentucky, Medicaid expansion was estimated to run a combined $1.8 billion over budget in fiscal years 2014 and 2015.
These states weren’t outliers. They were the norm.
In states with available data, actual expansion enrollment surpassed initial projections by a whopping 91 percent. Worse yet, each of these states also blew past their projected maximum enrollment, by an average of 73 percent.”
No matter what the pro-expansion camp says, Medicaid expansion isn’t free, and its costs are going up. The last time Wyoming’s legislature turned down Mead’s expansion, the feds were still picking up 100 percent of the treatment costs for newly-eligibles (which is really just code for working-age adults without disabilities). And even though President Obama is pushing to extend that match indefinitely, it would need approval by Congress, and with their recent votes defunding Obamacare, that’s highly unlikely.
Even states that are currently getting the 100 percent match are struggling to afford the administrative costs. Lawmakers should be putting resources towards teachers and education programs, officers and public safety, and engineers and infrastructure. But Mead wants them to take that money and give it to people who generally already have health insurance. Yes, that’s right, nearly 56 percent of the enrollees under Mead’s plan already have health insurance, according to estimates from Lewin Group Health Benefits Simulation Model.
Just looking at the numbers, Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion makes no sense for Wyoming. If Governor Mead was serious about real solutions, and not just growing the welfare class, he’d be looking to states that refuse to buy DC’s promises of “free money” for expansion but that face similar challenges – states like Kansas.
Kansas has as many rural health care struggles as any state, and they’ve even had to deal with the loss of a rural hospital. Plenty of people in expansion states can tell you that Medicaid won’t save rural hospitals, so there has to be a better way. Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback asked for a working group to address the issues facing rural hospitals and to develop innovative solutions. There they realize that the problems are bigger than a few uninsured patients using the emergency room. Rural hospitals have to survive demographic changes, economic swings, and burdensome federal regulations that increase the cost of providing health care.
Rather than just massively expanding the welfare state at the taxpayers’ expense without regard to the consequences, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer responded to Brownback’s call by assembling a team of rural physicians and hospital administrators along with policy makers and cabinet members.
“The Rural Health Working Group brings together a wealth of professional knowledge and personal experience to address rural healthcare access and outcomes with Kansas solutions,” said Colyer.
“As a fifth generation rural Kansan and physician, I understand that rural hospitals are often the lifeblood of their community. We must continue to form Kansas solutions to sustain rural health care.”
Mead should embrace the opportunity to find creative solutions. He should challenge and empower his staff, he should call on the legislature, and he should talk to experts in the health care industry to develop new ideas, rather than trying to be the champion of the Left’s crowning achievement: more dependency on government.
Thankfully Mead has the legislature to save Wyoming from Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. Hopefully they can kill this year’s expansion plans early so they can focus on the many other real issues in the state that demand their attention.