"Don't confuse me with the facts!"
This declaration is obviously the statement used by those who continue to demand that Tennessee expand its TennCare rolls under Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act. Clearly, the reality of increasing the state's budget to boost the number of people who get health insurance through our state's Medicaid program is lost in the belief that "free" services are good and that taxpayers want more of their wages sent to fund government offerings.
Don't believe that states that have expanded Obamacare by growing the numbers of individuals who received health care insurance through Medicaid are having budget problems?
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who was one of the last standing in the GOP presidential primary, led his state's Medicaid expansion to access the federal funding that would cover 100 percent of health care costs. According to a Forbes March 2016 review, "Kasich's Obamacare expansion has enrolled more able-bodied adults than the state thought would ever sign up. This enrollment explosion has resulted in $2.7 billion of budget overruns in just the first two years of the program." The expansion of Medicaid now means that 52.8 percent of the state's budget goes to the health insurance program for the poor.
In Washington state, the number of Medicaid recipients has doubled, which added $2.3 billion to state spending in 2015. In our northern neighbor, Kentucky, 2017 Medicaid costs have swollen from an estimated $33 million to $74 million, with a projection of $363 million in 2021 (in just five years) using the Obamacare expansion. Illinois' Medicaid expansion budget had an $800 overrun in 2014, with its Obamacare enrollment only beginning in July 2013.
Numbers, numbers, but the truth is that most states must balance their budgets by prioritizing spending. If spending for health care for the poor increases, there will either be a need to increase taxes or reduce spending for education, infrastructure and other services.
Please remember that TennCare cut 180,000 participants from its rolls under Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen in 2005 and 2006 to protect other important services of our state's budget that were being choked out by this one area of spending.
Obamacare is a failed policy based on the theory that government mandates, taxation and price caps will produce an optimal service. Through these very mechanisms, supported by hospitals and insurance companies to help push this Democrat-only-supported law in 2010, insurance premiums have exploded with high deductibles forcing out-of-pocket expenses to shift most health care spending to patients who are also shouldering higher premiums.
In Tennessee, health insurers have submitted their 2017 proposed rate plans. Double-digit increases have been requested by all of the insurers. The reason cited for each of these increases has been Obamacare. Why are these massive increases needed? Simply because the plan is not working.
With most consumer products, such as electronics or automobiles, the competitive open market is embraced and works to respond to consumer needs and pricing — in economic terms, the demand curve is proven true.
However, in sectors that the government invades — health care, education, housing and banking — the American public has witnessed failure and instability in response to over-regulation, manipulation of markets and bailouts.
Health insurance is an important service to purchase. Yet, as a service, its overall value is being destroyed unless you are a government dependent who receives "free" health care.
We need a health care free market that responds to demand and competition that lowers costs and increases access. "Free" health insurance will continue the same problems: high costs, limited access.
Robin Smith, a former chairwoman of the Tennessee Republican Party, is owner of Rivers Edge Alliance.