Guest Editorial Series: Stop Digging

By Jared Gifford

What is the first rule of digging oneself into a hole? The answer: Stop digging. This principle applies to Idaho and the push to expand Medicaid: Stop digging a deeper hole.

Traditional Medicaid is primarily designed to provide medical care for low-income children, pregnant women, and the disabled. In Idaho, the cost of Medicaid has grown by leaps and bounds. During the last 12 years, from fiscal years 2007 to 2019 (projected), overall Medicaid spending has increased from $1.2 billion to $2.45 billion. Yes, Medicaid spending more than doubled. During that same period the state’s population growth has only been about 17 percent.

So Medicaid spending has grown more than 100 percent with a population growth of some 17 percent. During the same period, spending on K-12 education has increased approximately 40 percent. And, transportation spending has increased about 41 percent.

When we take population growth out of the equation and simply look at spending per Idahoan, Medicaid spending is growing three times as fast per person as K-12 education and transportation spending. All of these numbers are before the proposed Medicaid expansion is factored in.

With Proposition 2 on the November ballot, it is important to understand and consider the above costs, because Medicaid expansion proponents tell us that expansion will save Idahoans money. Yes, you read that right. They claim that providing able-bodied adults with 100 percent taxpayer-funded medical care will save the rest of us money. How so? They claim indigent care expenses will be reduced and that these able-bodied adults, who would receive “free” medical care, will use less medical care overall.

The problems with this thesis are obvious. How do you give someone a free service and then expect them to use it frugally? It simply makes no sense and that is fundamentally why Obamacare has been such a disaster. It is based on several false premises: if you try to force everyone into a top-down medical system costs will be reduced; if you give a large segment of the population free services that will lower overall costs; and, if you require everyone to purchase an insurance policy with 10 “essential benefits,” whether you want them or not, it will save money.

Yes, Obamacare is a black hole of medical spending and Medicaid expansion is the vortex. Now, a lot of people will point out that many states have expanded Medicaid so Idaho should follow the trend.

Let’s summarize the lessons from the other expansion states:

· On average, actual enrollments were more than double the projections.

· Costs were more than double the projections.

· Of the 12 million able-bodied adults added to Medicaid through expansion in other states, more than half are not working.

Just because you have a shovel in your hand, it doesn’t mean you should dig. Idaho, don’t dig a deeper Medicaid-expansion hole.

*Jared Gifford is the Youth Committee Person for the Bonneville County Republican Central Committee

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