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Don't commit Medicaid-assisted suicide in Pennsylvania

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Saturday, April 27, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
 

Everybody and his brother, sister, mother, father and, heck, maybe even the family fido suddenly is citing this or that study in an attempt to persuade Gov. Tom Corbett to expand Pennsylvania's Medicaid program under ObamaCare.

All types of multibillion-dollar economic nirvana, including jobs!, Jobs!, JOBS!, are being touted.

“What's not to like?” a Philadelphia Inquirer editorial gushed. Cost? Pshaw! The federal government will pay for it! Free money! What's the problem?

One study is from the state's Independent Fiscal Office. That's the commonwealth's version of the Congressional Budget Office. Garbage in, garbage out?

Another study came from the Pennsylvania Economy League, on behalf of the Pennsylvania Health Funders Collaborative, which calls expanded Medicaid “a win-win proposition.” And after all, as the latter exhorts (cue the incredulous exclamation points and rhetorical question marks being pounded out on the keyboard), wasn't Mr. Corbett “elected to build our economy and create new jobs”? Well!!!!????

Then there's a Rand study, sponsored by The Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania, which predicts “more than $2 billion in federal spending in the state annually,” which “will add more than $3 billion a year to the state's GDP and support 35,000 to 39,000 jobs.”

Wait another hour or two and there likely will be other studies from more than a few organized-labor outfits predicting children with perfect teeth (but only if union workers are paid the prevailing wage) and Heinz 57 dogs that never again will walk with a sideways gait.

All these glowing reviews and their obviously biased push for better living through an expanded welfare state are classic examples of “the seen” and “the unseen.” The “seen” is massively expanding Medicaid with all of the supposed “benefits” — dubiously calculated — that will be accrued. The “unseen” — whether born of ignorance or of willful misrepresentation — is the facts that are getting lost in the hustle.

Think higher taxes to pay for it all. Think shrinking uncompensated-care reimbursements for hospitals. Think of destroying the private health insurance market. Think of even longer waits and worse care and maybe even no care for the neediest among us.

Jake Haulk, president of the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy, dissected the Rand study. He found its conclusions lacking, relying “heavily on modeling and assumptions, some of which are highly questionable.” And no attempt was made to account for macroeconomic effects. “What a sham!” he says.

Additionally, Mr. Haulk, a Ph.D. economist, found “multiplier gibberish” in the jobs and economics benefits claims.

And Nathan Benefield, director of policy analysis at the Commonwealth Foundation, minces no words about expanding Medicaid — it “would be a disaster for Pennsylvania.”

“As it stands now, nearly one in three doctors in Pennsylvania refuse to take Medicaid patients,” Mr. Benefield reminds. “Medicaid is notorious for underpayment and bureaucratic snags. Profitable practices turn into money pits surrounded by red tape. Rather than go out of business, doctors decide to cut their losses by cutting Medicaid.”

Medicaid already is a failure. Expanding it — a new government intervention to cover up the lie of the last government intervention — would only make it a larger failure.

State-based solutions remain the better option. Benefield points to places such as Rhode Island, and to Florida, which “used its Medicaid waiver to give low-income families the option of buying private insurance.” The coverage is more economical and the care is better.

Those pushing for Gov. Corbett to commit Medicaid-assisted suicide should know better. The fact that they don't raises a whole host of other questions, none of them very flattering.

Colin McNickle is Trib Total Media's director of editorial pages (412-320-7836 or cmcnickle@tribweb.com).

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