Governor Tim Pawlenty said he’ll build his presidential campaign around it. The GOP leaders swear they will get it abolished. It seems that there is nothing more important to the Republican party right now than denying people basic affordable health care access.
Via CBS news:
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the Republicans “owe it to the American people” to try to repeal health care reform.
“This was a terrible bill,” McConnell said on “Face the Nation” Sunday.
McConnel said the results of Election Day meant that “People who supported us – political independents – want it repealed and replaced with something else. I think we owe it to them to try,” McConnell said.
Also on the program, House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., defended the sweeping health care legislation, likening the reform with other major initiatives, like the civil rights laws of the 1960s. “The fact of the matter is what we did with health care is to make that a fundamental right of every citizen.”
It’s no surprise really that the GOP is making rolling back health care access a key party platform. With numerous states across the country flipping from Democratic to Republican majorities, a greater focus is being put on reigning in Medicaid costs as well as a means to balancing tight local budgets.
“With Obamacare mandates coming down, we have a situation where we cannot reduce benefits or change eligibility” to cut costs, said State Representative Warren Chisum, Republican of Pampa [Texas], the veteran conservative lawmaker who recently entered the race for speaker of the House. “This system is bankrupting our state,” he said. “We need to get out of it. And with the budget shortfall we’re anticipating, we may have to act this year.”
The Heritage Foundation, a conservative research organization, estimates Texas could save $60 billion from 2013 to 2019 by opting out of Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, dropping coverage for acute care but continuing to finance long-term care services. The Texas Health and Human Services Commission, which has 3.6 million children, people with disabilities and impoverished Texans enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP, will release its own study on the effect of ending the state’s participation in the federal match program at some point between now and January.
Of course, when the numbers are analyzed by anyone not from the conservative think tank, it becomes obvious that opting out wouldn’t just be a disaster for the millions who rely on the plan for health care, but for the state’s basic budget as well.
The underlying rationale is that sacrificing the health coverage of poor people would be a worthwhile move if it solves the state’s budget crisis. If you’re a purist in opposing the welfare state — even at significant human cost to the most vulnerable — it’s a logical argument to make. But even if we all agree the goal is fiscal solvency, there’s also a chance that gutting Medicaid could end up backfiring.
The uninsured poor have already been resorting to hospital emergency rooms for care, and hospitals, in turn, have relied on state governments to cover the costs. If Medicaid coverage were pared back, the hospital ER would likely become the de facto safety net: The number of uninsured ER visits would invariably rise, and the state government would end up paying the price anyway. Texas’s own comptroller, Susan Combs, has admitted as much: In a 2005 paper, she proposes that the state’s Medicaid should be slashed and hospital reimbursements upped instead. But ER visits are extremely expensive, and they won’t serve as a particular cost-effective solution to eliminating insurance, which at least gives patients other options for care.
To be sure, there’s no question that Medicaid has been costly for state governments, and it’s understandable that the lingering recession would make state officials feel panicky about the future expansion. There are deeper programs still: the cash-strapped program only pays providers 66 percent of Medicare reimbursement rates, making it hard for Medicaid patients to find doctors who accept their coverage. Such dilemmas strengthen the argument for simply federalizing the entire Medicaid program, protecting it from the ideological and fiscal battles on the state level.
But until the day comes that a better Medicaid overhaul is possible, states must also realize that simply trying to wash their hands of the problem by stripping Medicaid coverage from the poor — without providing a reasonable alternative — won’t be the answer either. The uninsured poor will continue to get sick. They will continue to seek out health care. And many institutions — including state governments — will still end up paying for it.
Whether or not you object to the idea of balancing a budget on the back of the poorest and sickest of your citizens, slash and burn attacks on health care are truly the definition of “penny wise, pound foolish” politics.