Legislature Blocks Obamacare Expansion….For Now

Aaron Flint posted on March 28, 2013 09:11 :: 919 Views

Committees in both the Montana House and the Senate rejected a bill supported by Gov Steve Bullock (D-MT) to expand Medicaid under Obamacare.  

While the Medicaid expansion has been rejected for now, expect efforts to blast the bill on to the floor of both houses to continue.   Here’s how Lee Newspapers’ Mike Dennison quoted State Sen. Jason Priest after the Senate rejected the expansion:

Sen. Jason Priest, R-Red Lodge and chairman of the Senate panel, fired back, saying Republicans have seen no move by Bullock to negotiate over Medicaid expansion.

“They just want a blank check,” he said. “He wants to grow government. … It’s a $6.8 billion decision to make, on the 66th day of the Legislature. Really? This is really, really irresponsible.”

The decision came the same day as news reports shed light on some of the true costs of the Medicaid expansion.  You might say the expansion is an effort to rob Peter of his family’s health care to pay for Paul’s health care, as the effort to expand Medicaid will drive up costs for the rest of us, making it harder for the rest of us to provide for our own families.  This isn’t merely an argument about giving healthcare to some, its about taking it away from others. 

The AP had the story:

A study by an organization of financial-risk analysts estimates the new federal health care law will raise medical-claims costs in Montana by more than 20 percent.

The estimates recently released by the Society of Actuaries say the national average will rise 32 percent for individual policies, but they vary widely from state to state.

Medical-claims costs are the biggest driver of health insurance premiums.

The Heritage Foundation notes that only 10 states would be net savers (those with already bloated Medicaid roles), while Montana would join the dozens of net losers under an expansion of Medicaid.

•State savings are concentrated in large states. New York is estimated to see $33 billion in savings, while Massachusetts is estimated to save $6 billion over 10 years. Because of the design of their current programs, these states have a unique opportunity to restructure their programs and transfer significant cost to the federal ledger.

The total cost to Montana?  $138 Million

Carl Graham with The Montana Policy Institute offers his take:  

Proponents of Medicaid expansion argue that it would insure more people, that it takes advantage of “free” federal money and that it will create jobs and pump up local economies. But the fact that barely half the states are taking action to expand Medicaid indicates that this federal giveaway may come with unacceptable risks and costs, including: 1) Expansion will dump more people into a system that provides poorer access to care and poorer health outcomes than private insurance. 2) Federal matching funds are neither free nor guaranteed, potentially leaving the state with an unsustainable funding requirement. 3) Expanding Medicaid without fundamentally reforming it perpetuates its shortcomings and will crowd out other public spending priorities.

There is no cost to delaying, but expansion is forever. This decision should wait until we can learn more.

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