But It’s Only A Few Billion More…

Medicaid spending will increase by more than one trillion dollars nationally over the next decade if all states participate in the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, according to new analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation. The KFF analysis predicts doing the expansion would increase Pennsylvania’s state taxes for Medicaid by another $2.8 billion. That’s the equivalent of yearly tuition at one of Pennsylvania’s state universities for 435,000 college students.

But KFF argues that since some of that cost will occur even if states reject the expansion (due to the individual mandate to have insurance), and most is picked up by federal, rather than state, taxes, states should go ahead and do the expansion.  The study estimates the state share of additional costs under the ACA will “only” cost states $8 billion. Co-author John Holahan argues such a small increase is one more reason to embrace the Medicaid expansion, “This is pretty attractive and should be hard for states to eventually-not right away-to walk away from.”

The reality is states can’t afford the current rate of Medicaid growth, much less take billions more in taxes from already-struggling families. Downplaying the cost-which will likely go up given the fiscal cliff facing the federal government-throws fuel on the four-alarm fire facing our state, including bursting welfare costs and a pension time bomb.

States truly cannot afford this expansion, but more importantly, neither can the low-income Pennsylvanians in Medicaid. The program is rift with fraud, waste, long waiting times and poor quality care. Dumping more individuals into this broken system is the last thing advocates of affordable and accessible health care should be promoting.

Instead, lawmakers should return power to consumers, empower Medicaid patients to choose between a variety of plans and reap rewards for making wise health care decisions.