Medicaid Expansion “Like Heroin” for State

Since the US Supreme Court ruled that the federal government cannot punish states for refusing to implement Obamacare, the debate to expand Medicaid will soon face the Montana State Legislature. 

While the federal government would initially cover the costs of a Medicaid expansion in Montana, state Sen. Dave Lewis (R-Helena) tells The Montana Watchdog’s Dustin Hurst that accepting those federal dollars would be “like heroin” for the state of Montana.    

Here’s an excerpt:

“It’s like heroin,” Lewis told Friday. “Once you buy in, you’re in.”

And as with most dealers, Congress is offering the first two years of free hits on the fiscal narcotic for free: In 2014 and 2015, the feds will cover all costs for new enrollees signing up under the new guidelines.

After that, federal funding descends over four years to 90 percent in 2019. After that, the funding split between the state and federal government is anyone’s guess.

Meanwhile, you can expect the hospitals to step up lobbying efforts supporting the Medicaid expansion, according to this article in The Wall Street Journal.

“You’re going to see a major intensification of lobbying at the state level by the hospitals and the doctors,” said John Gorman, a health-care consultant and former lobbyist. “They will scream for this money because they would rather see more people covered under Obama’s signature initiative than have bad debt.”

Medicaid currently provides health insurance to some 63 million low income and disabled Americans. Each state runs its own Medicaid program, with the federal government paying 57% of the bill on average. The health-care law passed in 2010 calls for Washington to pay 100% of the bill for states to expand their Medicaid programs before the share drops to 90% in 2020.

For reaction from Montana’s business community, The Montana Chamber of Commerce sent this out in their weekly e-mail update:


       By now it is no surprise for you to hear that the federal healthcare reform bill was largely upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. While that question has been answered, many business owners are left wondering how this law will actually impact their business. Will health insurance premiums become more affordable as a result? I think we’ve seen that it has actually made them more expensive. Will certain health plans still be available in the coming years? The answer may be that fewer options are available to business owners who try to provide coverage for their employees. Is it financially better for a business to pay the tax instead of providing coverage for their employees? Unfortunately, more businesses may come to that conclusion. Whether lawmakers are for or against the law, everyone needs to realize that much more can and should be done to make healthcare and health insurance more affordable, especially for the business community. The Montana Chamber will continue to urge federal and state officials to focus on cost-saving measures and wellness programs that can improve health and bring down costs.

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