Cato’s Tanner urges GOP governors to stand pat (Pat?) on Medicaid

Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute devotes his latest National Review Online column to the continuing mess that is Medicaid.

Supporters of expanding the program, along with much of the media, portray opposition to the idea as essentially political. It’s about governors and state legislators who simply oppose Obamacare and refuse to do anything that would help implement it, they contend. No doubt there’s a certain amount of truth to this claim.

But expanding Medicaid also raises serious policy concerns: It would increase government dependency, cost state taxpayers millions if not billions of dollars in new taxes, squeeze other state services, and do little to improve health care for the poor.

A close examination of the claims made by proponents of Medicaid expansion shows that they carry very little weight. For example:

Medicaid expansion will save lives. In Florida, Republican-cum-independent-cum-Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist has been running ads claiming that six Floridians die every day because Republican governor Rick Scott has not succeeded in expanding Medicaid. (Scott actually tried to expand the program, but the legislature rejected his plan, and he has since backed away from it.) But Crist’s numbers are based on studies with deeply flawed and discredited methodologies.

A gold-standard study in Oregon, with similar individuals randomly assigned to Medicaid or uninsured populations, concluded that “Medicaid coverage generated no significant improvements in measured physical-health outcomes.” Other studies show that, in some cases, Medicaid patients actually wait longer and receive worse care than the uninsured.

Tanner goes on to rebut the following myths: Medicaid expansion saves money by reducing uncompensated care and emergency-room visits. Medicaid expansion doesn’t cost states anything. The Medicaid expansion just gets states back the federal taxes that their citizens paid. The “private option” is a conservative way to expand Medicaid.

If any one of the assertions in the previous paragraph sounds convincing to you, follow the “column” link above to learn why each claim falls short of the mark.

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