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Published: Wednesday, 8/21/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

COMMENTARY

Cooking the books for Obamacare in Ohio

Ohio can avoid damaging its finances by refusing to expand the program

BY ELI MILLER
STATE DIRECTOR OF AMERICANS FOR PROSPERITY-OHIO.
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Across the country, Americans are waking up to the living nightmare that is Obamacare. Contrary to the law’s title, which promises “patient protection and affordable care,” Obama-care is expected to decrease the number of doctors available to patients and increase the cost of getting care.

In Ohio, the state Department of Insurance projects that health-insurance premiums will rise 41 percent next year, to an average monthly rate of $420 a person. But while higher-cost private health care is in the works, Ohio can shield itself from much of the damage that Obamacare will unleash on public health care.

Thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling last year on the law, states are no longer forced to expand their Medicaid programs to all households with incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty level. Ohio can avoid damaging its finances by refusing to expand the broken health-care program.

Obamacare’s cheerleaders are trying to hoodwink elected officials into believing that Medicaid expansion would be good for the state budget. Last week, Ohio State University researcher Bill Hayes and Health Policy Institute of Ohio President Amy Rohling McGee testified before state lawmakers that expanding Medicaid will save our state money.

That’s right: These economists claim that adding more people to the Medicaid dole will somehow decrease its costs, defying elementary logic that any Ohio schoolchild would sense is wrong. The numbers in their analysis don’t stand up to close examination.

Mr. Hayes and Ms. McGee estimate that the total federal-state cost of Ohio Medicaid will reach $43.4 billion by 2025, because the cost of the program has increased by an average 7.2 percent a year in recent years. While this estimate seems methodologically sound, they use a different growth rate to estimate future enrollment, effectively comparing apples to oranges.

They claim that an expanded Medicaid program would cost as little as $37.2 billion in 2025, assuming 3.5 percent annual growth. Instead of comparing the options — expand or don’t expand — using the 7.2 percent rate of growth that corresponds to reality, they cooked the books to make Medicaid expansion sound like the fiscally responsible alternative. They don’t explain how the state can achieve the 3.5 percent rate.

Ohio should seek to reduce annual Medicaid growth to a more sustainable level such as 3.5 percent, but that doesn’t justify expanding the already bloated program. The state can save even more by not expanding the program and reducing its rate of growth. The two are not mutually exclusive.

Fiscal concerns aside, what’s more important about these numbers is the people they represent. Putting more Ohioans on Medicaid means that more of our neighbors will be subjected to a broken program that makes them sicker.

Surgical patients on Medicaid are 13 percent more likely to die than uninsured patients, and 97 percent more likely than privately insured patients, according to a University of Virginia study. Medicaid cancer patients are two to three times more likely to die than other patients, according to a study published in the academic journal Cancer.

As the General Assembly prepares to address this important issue, lawmakers should invoke the option granted to them by the Supreme Court not to expand Medicaid in Ohio. This state’s most vulnerable citizens deserve better than Medicaid’s poison pill, and Ohio’s taxpayers deserve better than to foot the bill.



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