BlogSave Michigan

Last month, I went on Tony Conley’s radio show on WILS in Lansing to talk about conservative activist Jack Hoogendyk’s shameful lies and scare tactics about Medicaid expansion in Michigan. I predicted to Tony that Hoogendyk would argue with no evidence that the federal government would break its promise to fund Medicaid in the future, the same argument being thrown out by Republican politicians. Of course, the federal government has never once broken its promise to fully fund Medicaid since the program’s creation in 1965.

I was wrong. Rather than arguing that the federal government would renege, Hoogendyk simply stated (again with no evidence) that he thinks “it’s a very very bad policy” and “it’ll break the state…Medicaid is a program that’s already broke…the money’s not there.”

This morning the Mackinac Center is promoting a push poll saying that Medicaid Expansion loses support “when voters told of potential effects.” Those effects, for which Jack McHugh states there is “abundant evidence,” include “waste, fraud and abuse” and allowing “too many able-bodied young people to get insurance, even if they just chose not to work to provide for their own health care needs.”

These are lies. The reality is, Medicaid is a program conservatives should love. It is funded jointly by the federal government and states, but the actual administration of the program is up to the states, all of which have an enormous amount of flexibility in designing programs that best fit their needs.

The vast majority of Medicaid spending – 66 percent – is on seniors and the disabled, not “able-bodied young people” who choose not to work. The program pays for over one-third of all births in the US every year, and covers 60 percent of all nursing home residents. And it does so more efficiently than private health insurance, while protecting low-income people against exorbitant out-of-pocket costs.

Medicaid is not a government handout. It provides nothing directly to beneficiaries – it pays health care providers for services covered under the program. These beneficiaries, who are either aged, disabled, working poor, or children, would be relying on emergency room care for their primary provider – which is not only the most expensive form of health care, it’s funded by people with health insurance.

Conservatives are free to say they believe that emergency room care is the best option for low-income Americans. But they should not be given a free pass to make up their own facts when their existing arguments are too weak to be taken seriously.

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