John Kasich is not a hospital lobbyist, but you’d never guess that if you’ve seen him on TV attacking the latest Republican health reform proposal.
Kasich, the term-limited Republican governor of Ohio, has been sniping at congressional attempts to repeal Obamacare all year. Wednesday he tore into Senate Republicans’ last-ditch Obamacare repeal efforts in appearances on MSNBC, CNN, and Bloomberg.
The Graham-Cassidy bill introduced this week by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV), and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) would reroute the law’s spending on exchange subsidies and Medicaid expansion into block grants, restoring some flexibility to the states.
Although Graham-Cassidy would keep most of Obamacare’s taxes, spending, and insurance regulations in place, the bill would end the individual and employer mandates. Insurance industry lobbyists and the American Hospital Association (AHA) are furious.
“We believe that coverage could be at risk for tens of millions of Americans under the Graham-Cassidy proposal,” the hospital lobbying group said in a Sept. 19 press release. “We continue to urge senators to work in a bipartisan manner to address the challenges facing our health care system.”
Kasich hates Graham-Cassidy for the same reason AHA does: hospitals are raking in billions of dollars per year in Obamacare spending in Ohio and other states that implemented Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid to able-bodied, working-age adults.
Given a choice, hospital lobbyists and governors who grabbed blank Obamacare expansion checks from federal taxpayers would prefer uninhibited deficit spending from D.C. over anything resembling federalism.
“What is wrong with this bill?” Chris Matthews asked Kasich in a pillowy Hardball interview Wednesday night.
“Well, Chris, what it does is it takes the Medicaid expansion, along with the money that was set aside to provide subsidies to people so they could buy health care, it cuts it right off the bat by 17 percent. It has no guardrails to protect people who are the mentally ill, the drug-addicted, the chronically ill,” Kasich replied.
The governor recited the same points in a Wednesday night CNN interview with Anderson Cooper, implicitly endorsing every major component of Obamacare.
“In the future, [Graham-Cassidy] could have a dramatic impact on people,” Kasich grumbled to Matthews. “And it’s not just about numbers, it’s about people.”
In Ohio, there were 930,000 more people on Medicaid this January than there were when Kasich took office in January 2011. Kasich’s Obamacare expansion has added 720,000 able-bodied, working-age adults to the welfare rolls at a cost of nearly $15 billion since 2014.
With Ohio Medicaid spending exploding by 35 percent since 2013, the Ohio General Assembly passed an Obamacare expansion freeze earlier this year; Kasich vetoed it. Kasich needs his Obamacare expansion to remain untouched so he can primary President Trump or mount an independent campaign in 2020.
Once Obamacare’s promised 90 percent federal match for Medicaid expansion starts to dry up (with a $20 trillion national debt plus tens of trillion more in unfunded entitlement liabilities, it’s a matter of when, not if), Ohio’s budget will implode:
As an alternative to Graham-Cassidy, Kasich — who has long said he supports block grants, and who campaigned on Obamacare repeal in last year’s GOP primary — is trying to gin up support for his bipartisan Obamacare bailout plan.
Kasich proposes that Congress spend more subsidizing Obamacare’s exchanges while leaving the individual mandate, employer mandate, and Medicaid expansion in place indefinitely. Maybe if his third presidential campaign doesn’t work out any better than the last two, AHA can find a place for Kasich on the payroll.