By DEXTER DUGGAN
PHOENIX — Although Obamacare itself continues to win headlines about how government dominates people’s lives through tightly controlled health coverage, its Medicaid component is a major issue, too.
“The politics of this really are being driven by interest groups,” a national health-policy expert told The Wanderer in a telephone interview about Medicaid-expansion efforts in the states. “…The hospitals are looking for additional funding.”
Nor do the results of one state legislative session mean the issue has been settled, said Ed Haislmaier, senior research fellow in health-care policy at the Heritage Foundation national conservative think tank.
“The hospitals are coming back” for more battles at legislatures if they didn’t get the funding they wanted, Haislmaier said in the February 10 interview.
Even though Arizona Republican Gov. Jan Brewer capitulated to hospital and big-business interests here last year and rammed Medicaid expansion through a surprise overnight session of the state legislature, the issue hasn’t been settled in favor of the hospitals, either.
Although Brewer signed the expansion into law last summer after the Democratic minority and a few “moderate” Republicans gave her the votes she needed for a majority, conservative Arizona opponents of the expansion keep fighting back.
The current state legislative session is considering legislation to repeal the expansion, while a court challenge also continues.
The Arizona Catholic Conference, the bishops’ lobbying arm, supported the expansion last year even after conservatives and pro-family organizations pointed out that it would increase funding to Planned Parenthood.
An Arizona campaign manager told The Wanderer on February 6 that one conservative Republican legislator fighting for repeal at the state capitol “gets points for being consistent and for making the effort, much like House Republicans in D.C. who vote time after time to repeal Obamacare. That said, the effort is equally futile because the votes are not there to pass it through the House and Senate, and Gov. Brewer would veto it in any case.”
The campaign manager asked not to be named lest he be seen as pouring cold water on a commendable effort.
Meanwhile, legislative foes of the Arizona expansion said they’d appeal a recent Superior Court decision that they lacked standing to challenge it.
News services including the Arizona Daily Independent quoted Christina Sandefur, an attorney for the conservative Goldwater Institute representing them:
“Unfortunately, this ruling greatly damages Arizona’s critically important voter-enacted constitutional protection requiring a two-thirds legislative supermajority for all new taxes, even when the government is responding to a ‘crisis or emergency’ or a program ‘for the poor.’ If this decision stands, it would enable a simple majority of legislators to vote to ignore a constitutional supermajority requirement when politically convenient, shielding that vote from legal challenge.”
Haislmaier, the Heritage expert, told The Wanderer that Medicaid coverage should be for those who can’t better themselves, like the disabled and youngsters, but it’s becoming a program for younger low-wage workers — and this gives employers an incentive to keep them in low-wage jobs.
Hospitals want to use Medicaid money to help cover for where they come up short on Medicare funding, he said, but they should address their problem with legislators instead.
Shortly before Brewer rammed the expansion through last summer, National Review Online had warned her by name: “Medicaid is an extraordinarily expensive program, and one that has been shown in study after study to produce little or nothing in the way of measurable health benefits for recipients.
“It is an additional indicator of the program’s low quality that nearly a third of all U.S. doctors refuse to take on new Medicaid patients. It is the definitive federal entitlement boondoggle: big cost, little upside,” National Review Online said.