Medicaid Myth #2: Medicaid Expansion Helps Poor

Yesterday, we began a series on the many myths surrounding Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s plan to reform Medicaid. We started with the myth that Ryan would gut Medicaid, when instead his plan slows growth to make the program sustainable. Today we’ll examine myth #2:

Expanding Medicaid will help the poor.

Truth: Real help for the poor is health care options and a sustainable system. Take the Linzey family from Wallingford, Pa. Parents Katherine and Brian are self-employed and don’t have health insurance. The Huffington Post reports that their 2-year-old daughter, Annabelle, was born with severe brain disorders and “needs constant care and help breathing”:

Medicaid covers Anabelle’s expenses but the family still went bankrupt. The couple missed work and their income sank as the household bills mounted during baby’s 60-day stay in the neonatal intensive care after she was born…

…”It would be absolutely impossible for us to care for Anabelle in our home as a part of this family without these benefits,” Linzey said. “These are the programs that allow families to be families.”

As we noted yesterday, Ryan’s Medicaid reform slows the program’s growth, which is essential to preserve Medicaid.  If Medicaid continues to grow at the rate President Obama would like, the program will be unsustainable and no longer capable of supporting families such as the Linzeys.

At any rate, Medicaid isn’t the best we can do for Annabelle and America’s poor—it is notorious for offering substandard care. Only 45 percent of primary care physicians are willing to accept most or all new Medicaid patients that come through their doors.

Furthermore, because it is difficult to find a doctor, Medicaid patients use ERs about twice as often as the uninsured and privately insured. And when patients do receive treatment, they face lower survival rates.

President Obama’s health care reform would expand Medicaid to put a quarter of Pennsylvanians into an expensive and shoddy Medicaid system. The expansion will cost Pennsylvania taxpayers an additional $2 billion by 2019 on top of the 20 new taxes in the Affordable Care Act.

Taxing workers and employers to expand Medicaid will not only shrink job opportunities, but place more Pennsylvanians in second-rate insurance.

We should create the kind of environment where parents like the Linzeys have a range of health care coverage options they can buy, instead of having to be dependent on an unsustainable and inferior government health program. Medicaid is not the best we can do for little Annabelle—an America rich with opportunity is.

For more myths about the Ryan Medicaid plan read our Policy Memo.