The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Opinion

January 8, 2014

Welcome to Medicaid for all

The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein has found what he thinks is a bright spot amid the gloomy Obamacare news.

When you hear what he’s enthusiastic about, you’ll perhaps understand why I wonder if there is any common ground at all between liberals and conservatives. Klein reports that Obamacare’s “biggest success” is that 4 million new enrollees signed up for Medicaid as of November and the number should be even higher when December’s statistics are tallied. “If the point of health care reform is covering people who need health insurance, the expansion of Medicaid should be a huge win.”

Sorry, but the expansion of dependence on government is never cause for rejoicing. Conservatives acknowledge that a safety net is necessary for the poor, but we regard only the number of people leaving a government program like Medicaid as cause for celebration, not adding to the numbers who receive benefits. Klein is hardly alone. Nancy Pelosi describes unemployment benefits as the greatest possible “stimulus” to the economy. By this logic, we should put everyone on unemployment, right?

Why is it terrible news that millions more people are signing up for Medicaid? Here are just a few of the reasons:

Medicaid is one of the entitlements whose growth endangers national solvency. Together with Medicare, Medicaid was already consuming more than one in five federal dollars before the enactment of Obamacare. The growth in health care spending was one of the rationales for Obamacare, but expanding Medicaid spending simply contributes to the problem.

Medicaid is plagued by fraud. Among the common scams perpetrated by enrollees, the National Conference of State Legislatures lists “obtaining medications or products that are not needed and selling them on the black market, filing claims for services not received” and more. Providers commit fraud by “billing for services not performed, billing duplicate times for the same service, ordering excessive or unnecessary tests” and so forth. Just last month, dozens of Russian diplomats — yes, noncitizens — were charged with bilking Medicaid of $1.7 million over the course of nine years.

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With the Clinton County Justice Coordinating Commission and the Clinton County Board of Supervisors discussing proposals to construct a new jail, do you think the time has come for Clinton County to construct such a facility?

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