| May 28, 2013

Look over there, not over here

Recently the federal Department of Health and Human Services notified the state of Oklahoma that President Obama and Secretary Kathleen Sebelius were going to break yet another promise of Obamacare by not renewing Oklahoma’s current waiver for Insure Oklahoma.

You’ll remember that President Obama famously said, “If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan.” It turns out that was a bald-faced lie, as so many Americans — employers, individuals, even my own family — are finding out.

Now, HHS is essentially trying to blackmail the state of Oklahoma into accepting the Obamacare Medicaid expansion by saying it is more than happy to renew Insure Oklahoma if Oklahoma expands Medicaid and its premium-assistance program the way the federal government would like.

What’s ironic and hypocritical is that one of HHS’s reasons for denying continuation of the program is that Insure Oklahoma currently has an enrollment cap, to make sure that usage of the program can be budgeted for and funded more responsibly. HHS has determined that enrollment caps are acceptable for its Obamacare temporary high-risk pool in Oklahoma, but not for Insure Oklahoma.

Oklahoma’s institutional left and their allies in the crony capitalist/health care provider complex are doing their best to be an accomplice to HHS’ blackmail attempt. Those who stand to make even more money from expanding Medicaid in Oklahoma (e.g., hospitals, health insurance companies, consultants, and lobbyists) have organized a significant public relations effort full of false and deceitful information, misleading polls, and a host of inaccurate statements about what expanding Medicaid means in Oklahoma.

If you have ever spent much time caring for young children, inevitably when you catch them in mischief, like taking something they are not supposed to have, they will often say to you, “No, mommy, don’t look over here — look over there!”

The financial benefactors of Medicaid expansion conveniently ignore the monstrous problems with hospital pricing and lack of transparency which are driving the rapid increase in health-care costs. Like a child trying to hide mischief, the hospitals’ representative wants customers to focus not on a lack of transparency or wildly differing charges, but rather just the patients’ “out-of-pocket” costs.

The chief lie being peddled by proponents of Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion and any allowable premium-assistance program is that if Oklahoma doesn’t spend the federal funds, other states will spend the money Oklahoma was to receive. This lie is refuted by none other than the Congressional Budget Office, which projects a reduction in spending due to states acting to not expand Medicaid. Moreover, Christina Cortieri, a health-care policy analyst at the Goldwater Institute, recently described in a Wall Street Journal article how states could save our grandchildren hundreds of billions of dollars by not expanding Medicaid.

This lie also shows a fundamental misunderstanding of how Medicaid is funded. Medicaid spending in totality is an uncapped entitlement program, which is based on actual enrollment and expenditures, not a proratashare block grant program.

The website trying to entice public support of the expansion uses graphics to trick viewers into believing that “red” or “moderate” states like Florida, Michigan, Missouri, and Ohio are going to get Oklahoma’s “free money” — even though a number of states (Florida, Missouri, and Ohio) have actually rejected the Medicaid expansion.

The federal government’s track record with the Obamacare temporary high-risk pools, and its track record with other entitlements and government program cost estimates, is extremely poor. Based on this, it would be foolish for a state to trust rosy and understated cost estimates by bureaucratic advocates of a much larger program like Obamacare’s proposed Medicaid expansion or premium-assistance funding proposals.

Beware the person that tells you to “look over there, not over here” while trying to sell you something — especially when the evidence is overwhelming that the product you are about to purchase is doomed to fail.

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