Much of the case against Proposition 2, which would expand Medicaid to cover 62,000 working poor, has been dominated by distractions. And that’s true of the peculiar molehill the Idaho Freedom Foundation attempted to make a mountain of last week.
The Foundation dug up a post on Reclaim Idaho’s Facebook page, headlined: “The Movement for Universal Healthcare.”
“The end goal isn’t to offer ‘free’ health coverage to the estimated 62,000 Idahoans in the so-called Medicaid gap,” Foundation President Wayne Hoffman claimed. “The real aim, revealed in a Facebook post, is Bernie Sanders-styled single-payer health care.”
This is sleight of hand. The Foundation wants you to see “universal health care” and “single-payer” as synonyms. They aren’t.
Ronald Reagan signed a 1986 law making it illegal for emergency rooms to turn away someone in a health crisis, regardless of their ability to pay. After reports of so-called “patient dumping,” the nation rightly concluded that turning away a poor, elderly person in the middle of a stroke to pad the bottom line was barbarism.
So now efforts are made to save every life, rich or poor. That’s a kind of universal health care, though a limited one. And we’re a more decent society because of it.
The Foundation has centered its attacks on Medicaid expansion around distractions like this. Like trying to convince voters that Reclaim Idaho, a thoroughly grassroots movement that got some last-minute help with funds from an out-of-state group, is simply a front for “an out-of-state leftist organization.” Making a charge like that, while also pressuring lawmakers to protect “donor privacy” and refusing to disclose who funds the Foundation, is hypocrisy.
Who’s the face behind the Foundation’s curtain?
Medicaid expansion isn’t a slippery slope or the thin edge of the wedge. It’s not a dark plot being pushed on the Gem State by outsiders. It’s a sensible policy that every Idahoan who cares about their neighbors’ well-being ought to support.
That’s why several Republican lawmakers — including Rep. Fred Wood, a doctor, chairman of the House Health and Welfare Committee and the state representative with the deepest understanding of health care policy — have endorsed Proposition 2.
The best studies indicate it will save us money, as long as we also eliminate the programs through which state and local taxpayers reimburse hospitals for uncompensated care — which lawmakers ought to do if Medicaid expansion passes. Much more importantly, it’s likely to save hundreds of lives every year.
Medicaid expansion simply opens up eligibility for an existing program that provides insurance for the very poor, pregnant women and the disabled to an additional 3.6 percent of the population. These are mostly people who work, but don’t make enough to afford the astronomical cost of care.
Most won’t stay on the program long. An analysis by the Department of Health and Welfare showed that those who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, which have similar eligibility criteria to expanded Medicaid, received an average of 13 months of benefits during their lifetimes.
This is what the gap looks like: One of your neighbors gets laid off and has to work part-time while searching for a new job that fits their skills. If the community comes together to help them get back on their feet, they can return to playing a productive role in society.
But if they get sick and are uninsured, your neighbor could fall into a hole of debt that there’s no climbing out of. Or they might die because they avoid seeking health care they need.
We’ve watched far too many of our neighbors die that way, and we are responsible for finding a way to stop it.
It’s a responsibility we should not shirk.