In time for Governor Tony Evers’ anticipated action this week on the state budget, the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty has issued a list of the top six myths being spread about health care policy and the state budget.
Right at the top of the list, Evers himself said the proposed Medicaid expansion, rejected by Republicans, would lower health care costs for everyone.
As the healthcare Myth Busters report by Will Flanders and Cori Peterson explains, expanding Medicaid would actually raise costs.
“As we stated in our Medicaid study, this is in fact a myth and instead Medicaid expansion will cost the average family of four an extra $700 per year,” they write. “This more than offsets the ‘free money’ that would come from Washington, resulting in a net cost, to the citizens of Wisconsin of approximately $400 million after taking increased federal dollars into account.”
Flanders and Peterson also point out that taking the federal money would also not greatly enhance health care coverage in Wisconsin since, as the Kaiser Foundation has stated, Wisconsin does not have a health insurance coverage gap. Between the commitment that began under Governor Scott Walker to cover everyone under the federal poverty line with the BadgerCare program and the federal health insurance exchange subsidies, health insurance coverage is available to everyone who would be covered by the proposed Medicaid expansion.
However, driving people from private insurance to government-run health care would actually drive up health care costs for everyone.
Joining Evers in the Medicaid-expansion myth-making is Sen. LaTonya Johnson (D-Milwaukee) who said, “This is money that our taxpayers have already paid in federal taxes, and 36 states have decided to expand Medicaid.”
However, there is no pot of gold in Washington D.C. with Wisconsin’s name on it. The federal welfare state is already straining under its existing burdens with the national debt continuing to get larger.
Flanders and Peterson note that under President Barack Obama, already the federal government sought to alter the terms under which Medicaid money was being sent to the states.
“Even the Obama Administration, which crafted higher reimbursement rates for Medicaid to induce states to participate, proposed alterations in the reimbursement rates for Medicaid,” they write. “The proposal for a so-called ‘blended rate’ was designed to bring three formulas for Medicaid together as one for each state. But this rate could have been significantly lower than what was promised by Obama in order to induce states to participate in ObamaCare.”
Flanders and Peterson point out even “a small reduction” could throw Wisconsin’s budget “into a tailspin” if the state made the mistake of accepting the federal Medicaid expansion money.
“Wisconsin already gets more than its fair share of federal money, and should always be wary of taking more,” they write.
Rep. Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee) also contributed to the health care myths by saying a Health Affairs study showed that taking the federal money to expand Medicaid in Wisconsin was fiscally the right decision to make.
“This is an extreme mischaracterization of the results of a Health Affairs study that was extremely limited in scope,” Flanders and Peterson write.
The study only focused on individual policies, about six percent of the entire healthcare market.
“Thus it is not surprising that, even if individual market premiums go down, overall costs would go up as we found,” Flanders and Peterson write.
Sen. Jennifer Schilling (D-La Crosse) says by rejecting the Democrats’ Medicaid expansion proposal, Republicans also rejected an opportunity to “increase quality and affordable health care for children, families, and seniors.”
Not quite. “There is strong evidence that putting people onto the Medicaid rolls will actually have the opposite effect of what Senator Shilling claims,” Flanders and Peterson write. “Only 45% of doctors are willing to accept new Medicaid patients according to recent studies, compared to 94% willing to accept private Medicaid Individual Medicare Employer Other Public Uninsured insurance and 93% willing to accept Medicare. This means that many new enrollees might be left out in the cold with healthcare providers that they had previously used. When patients can’t access care, they wait for emergencies which leads to detrimental health outcomes and more expense for the state.”
Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison) wants to go even further than her Democratic comrades.
“Our health care system is broken, and I favor a single payer system to take the profit out of health care while providing healthcare to EVERYONE, including dental and mental health care,” Taylor says on her website. “In our current system, at the very least there should be a public option available in the ACA Health care exchanges.”
However, a single-payer system is projected to cost the federal government $32 trillion over then next ten years. Health care costs would actually go up along with taxes while payments to doctors would decline, reducing medical care availability even as “free” health care would drive up the demand.
As for taking the profit out of health care, even Sweden and Australia still have private insurance.
Finally, Rep. Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) claims the Affordable Care Act is the only way to protect those with pre-existing conditions.
However, even before the Affordable Care Act, Wisconsin was helping those with pre-existing conditions with the state’s high-risk insurance pools which the Affordable Care Act abolished. Another alternative would be Direct Primary Care which eliminates the insurance company as a go-between and allows the consumer to work directly with the health care provider.
Unfortunately, the Democrats will probably not back down from repeating any of these myths when Evers vetoes the budget, in whole or in part, some time this week. The deadline for Evers is Friday.