Medicaid Expansion Proponents Should Be Faithful To Missouri’s Values
One of the bigger news items this week was the introduction of a Medicaid expansion proposal. Along with instituting some work requirements, the latest bill would raise the Medicaid eligibility level for many adults to 138 percent of the federal poverty level and implement what some call the “Arkansas model” for those between 100 percent and 138 percent of poverty, who would get state-supported health insurance.
The cost of the expansion would be enormous. Obamacare’s 90/10 “enhanced match” — that is, how much the federal government pays for Medicaid versus how much the state pays — only kicks in for newly eligible enrollees, not currently eligible enrollees. A 2012 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation suggests the cost to the state of that new population would be well north of a billion dollars over the next decade; the added cost of the currently eligible population, due to the Affordable Care Act, would be closer to $2 billion. It’s still not clear yet how the state would pay for any of this new spending.
The bill would also adopt a variation of the Arkansas expansion plan to try and use Medicaid funds to pay for private insurance for those between 100 percent and 138 percent of poverty. Again, the plan would be very expensive to the state. However, as often as Arkansas comes up in Missouri’s Medicaid conversation these days, what if I told you that even Arkansas is second-guessing the Arkansas model?
The State House for a second day in a row defeated a compromise plan to expand Medicaid by using federal Medicaid funds to buy private insurance for low-income residents. The program was approved last year as an alternative to expanding Medicaid’s enrollment under the federal health law. The House speaker, Davy Carter, has said the House will keep voting on the measure until it passes.
Reform must precede any proposed expansion in Missouri. Arkansas’ plan — which despite current opposition could still end up getting passed in that state by year’s end — isn’t so much a reform as it is a grab for federally financed deficit spending, which is why the expansion is alluring to politicians nationwide. That might fit with the way elected officials think, but that isn’t the way Missouri families try to run their households day-to-day.
That brings us back to Missouri’s sensibilities. Missouri’s motto (and the name of this Institute) stem from a saying that W.D. Vandiver popularized many years ago. While the origin of the saying – “I’m from Missouri; you’ll have to show me” — is subject to some dispute, Mr. Vandiver described its meaning thusly in a letter published in 1922 (emphasis mine):
“The public has not seemed to care for any prepared formula and has apparently accepted the ‘Show Me’ as properly indicative of the inquiring spirit and the cautious habit, about as given by the Literary Digest and the dictionary which defines it as the attitude of ‘one not easily taken in.’ “
Prudence: it’s one of Missouri’s hallmarks. And that’s why if we recognize that Medicaid is a failed program, expanding without first fixing it is a fool’s errand — one lacking in prudence. It is clearly irresponsible to set into motion a new entitlement whose foundation is in substance the current Medicaid program; that’s what this new bill seems to do.