Another bipartisan consensus has coalesced on ObamaCare, and it’s not cheery. The New York Times reports that both Republican and Democratic governors across the country have realized what Barack Obama’s health-care reform means to them — and they’re not going to sit quietly while Barack Obama passes the buck to the states:
The nation’s governors, Democrats as well as Republicans, voiced deep concern Sunday about the shape of the health care plan emerging from Congress, fearing that Washington was about to hand them expensive new Medicaid obligations without money to pay for them.
The role of the states in a restructured health care system dominated the summer meeting of the National Governors Association here this weekend — with bipartisan animosity voiced against the plan during a closed-door luncheon on Saturday and in a private meeting on Sunday with the health and human services secretary, Kathleen Sebelius.
“I think the governors would all agree that what we don’t want from the federal government is unfunded mandates,” said Gov. Jim Douglas of Vermont, a Republican, the group’s incoming chairman. “We can’t have the Congress impose requirements that we are forced to absorb beyond our capacity to do so.”
In fact, the Times reports that this message was unanimous. Every one of the versions of ObamaCare in Congress at the moment expands Medicaid eligibility as a means to get to universal health care. The budgeting for these bills only reflect the federal responsibilities for this expansion, but it carries hefty costs for the states as well. Unless Obama wants to fund these mandates, the governors will universally oppose the reform, which gives opponents a powerful force in stopping it. And if Obama does absorb the costs to expand Medicaid, it will explode the federal deficit.
This exposes the shell game Obama has played with ObamaCare. He wants to argue that the de facto nationalization of the health-care industry will contain costs while expanding coverage and maintaining access, but that only can happen if the plan either rations services or shifts the costs elsewhere. The use of Medicaid instead of Medicare to cover the currently uninsured puts those costs on the backs of the states, which will have to find revenues to pay for their end of ObamaCare. In most cases, that will require state tax increases across a broad swath of the citizenry on top of the 5.4% surtax on the wealthy that Charlie Rangel proposes.
Obama can claim to have kept his promise not to raise taxes on the middle class by refusing to take responsibility for the massive, unfunded mandate ObamaCare places on the states. However, taxpayers in all income levels will feel the pain regardless of whether Obama takes ownership of it.
The governors have decided not to go quietly at the last moment. Is it too late? Perhaps not, but they cut it pretty close.