Should you worry when the government says something is free?
- BY FGA
Short answer: Yes.
Long answer: When the government says that Medicaid expansion would be free—they really mean it’s free of common sense.
Wyoming taxpayers already generously provide access to health care for the truly needy and picking up the tab for thousands of able-bodied adults should not be at the top of the to-do list in Cheyenne.
Fortunately, yet again, Medicaid expansion died in the Wyoming state legislature this year. And it should never come up again. Here’s why:
Medicaid expansion doesn’t help the truly needy
Expanding Medicaid will not help low-income children, seniors, or pregnant women.
In fact, more than 65,000 truly needy Wyomingites already receive Medicaid coverage thanks to the generosity of taxpayers. Low-income seniors, individuals with disabilities, low-income children and pregnant women, and very-low-income able-bodied parents and caretakers of others on Medicaid are just some of the truly needy individuals already receiving taxpayer-funded support.
Instead of prioritizing care for these Wyomingites, however, Medicaid expansion would add 52,000 able-bodied adults onto the welfare program, clogging up a system that was designed to support the most vulnerable in our communities.
Medicaid expansion forces inferior coverage onto many Wyomingites
Many individuals who qualify for Medicaid expansion—those earning between 100 and 138 percent of the federal poverty level—are kicked off of their superior, private insurance coverage when states expand Medicaid. Even individuals who receive a government subsidy to purchase health insurance on the exchange lose their subsidy and get the boot into Medicaid.
If Wyoming were to expand Medicaid, thousands of individuals would lose their private coverage, further removing another incentive to work, and moving them to Medicaid coverage at the taxpayer’s expense.
Medicaid expansion hurts hospitals
Medicaid notoriously pays less for patient care. Removing thousands of people from better-paying private insurance and putting them onto Medicaid will only amplify the blow of lower, government-sponsored reimbursement rates.
Estimates suggest that if Wyoming were to expand Medicaid, hospitals would stand to lose more than $16 million annually—not to mention that lower-reimbursement rates are also a disincentive to many non-hospital providers, as well. Medicaid patients often face hurdles when finding a provider that will take their coverage and adding more individuals onto the program will further frustrate access to care for the truly needy.
Medicaid expansion diverts resources from other state priorities
No matter how you cut it, Medicaid expansion is certainly not free. And expanding Medicaid would leave taxpayers on the hook for $3.3 billion over a 10-year period. States that have expanded Medicaid often find themselves in the position of having to cut their budgets to continue mandatory funding for Medicaid expansion. Wyoming should continue to prioritize support for the truly needy and reserve limited taxpayer dollars for other state priorities, as well.
Wyoming was right to block Medicaid expansion last week. Instead of continuing to waste time in Cheyenne debating Medicaid expansion year after year, policymakers would do well to consider proven policies that would lower the cost of health care and expand access to more providers for all Wyomingites.