LDH’s Lies About Medicaid Are Becoming An Electoral Issue

There has been a good deal of discussion within policy circles this week about a patently false claim the Louisiana Department of Health has made about the wonderful economic benefits of Medicaid expansion. Sen. Conrad Appel tucked into this in vivid detail earlier this week by relaying an op-ed written by Chris Jacobs of the Pelican Institute; that op-ed completely blew up LDH’s claims about jobs created and money saved thanks to the John Bel Edwards’ having signed up some half-million people, a good 10 percent of whom have already been kicked off the rolls as ineligible, to go on the government healthcare dole.

It turns out that it’s illegal to use Medicaid money from the feds to spread lies. Which is not an inaccurate way to characterize that study.

That’s exactly how Ralph Abraham characterized it. A press release…

Congressman Ralph Abraham, M.D., R-Alto, is calling for acting Inspector General Joanne Chiedi to investigate whether the Louisiana Department of Health violated the law by knowingly distributing a flawed report that inflated the economic benefits of Medicaid Expansion.

LDH used federal funds to commission a report through LSU to examine the economic benefits of Medicaid expansion. That report claimed that expansion generated thousands of new jobs and saved the state hundreds of millions of dollars. However, recent reports have called those findings into question due to the methodology LSU used in its research that may have resulted in an over-counting of benefits.

Federal law prohibits the use of federal Medicaid funding to disseminate deliberately false or misleading information. Abraham’s letter asks for the Office of the Inspector General to investigate whether LDH violated the law by disseminating the false report to the public.

“There’s no question that Medicaid expansion in Louisiana has been poorly administered, considering the tens of millions in benefits paid to thousands of ineligible recipients. I have every reason to believe that LDH commissioned a bad report to mislead the public about how their tax dollars are being used. The people of Louisiana deserve an answer, and it is clear that we cannot trust LDH to regulate itself. The Inspector General needs to investigate and get to the bottom of this,” Abraham said.

Click here to read Abraham’s letter to the Inspector General.

There is a school of thought, which we completely disagree with, in national Republican circles which says it’s a bad idea politically to attack Medicaid expansion. We’re not sure what’s behind that. It might be that so many Republican governors have given in and “taken the soup” on Medicaid expansion, or that some pollster somewhere has numbers which say that fighting it will make people think for for poor people succumbing to dropsy or smallpox or something.

Or maybe it’s just cowardice.

The fact is, Medicaid is a terrible excuse for health insurance. Bill Cassidy called it “the illusion of health coverage,” and he’s right. If you’re on Medicaid you’re going to struggle to find a doctor who’ll treat you, which means you’re going to be in the emergency room for most of your healthcare needs just like you would be if you didn’t have health insurance. Except unlike the uninsured, if you’re on Medicaid your ER visits don’t cost you anything; so unlike the uninsured you’ll be at the ER all the time.

Which means you’re actually setting taxpayer dollars on fire signing people up for Medicaid rather than actually increasing healthcare outcomes. The facts are pretty demonstrable on that.

What’s worse, the Edwards administration signed up a good 50,000 people who were absolutely ineligible for Medicaid into the program, and then kept them on it for three years despite their ineligibility. Then, when an election year loomed, they finally went and vetted these people and kicked them off – and then patted themselves on the back for their fiscal responsibility and claimed they’d saved the state all this money.

That might not even be the worst of it. Federal law allows Louisiana to use Medicaid dollars to craft a premium-support program rather than to just put people on the dole. Meaning that while Obamacare incentivized small businesses to dump their employees out onto Medicaid, what could have been done rather than just blindly soak all of them up into fully socialized medicine the Edwards administration could have pushed the premium-support option and put a bunch of those people into subsidized private health insurance. There are only something like 1,000 people in that program right now, which is a scandal and should damn sure be considered evidence that Edwards is every bit the leftist the state’s conservatives are screaming he is.

As a result of how all this was handled while LDH and the rest of Edwards’ paid flacks have been propagandizing the Medicaid expansion as some economically-sound plan that moves the state forward, Louisiana is now on a path upon which Medicaid is set to cost Louisiana taxpayers – not the feds; we’re talking about state effort here – $100 million more per year, every year, compounding ad infinitum. That money means roads which won’t get built, colleges which won’t be funded, pension plans set to go bust, you name it.

It’s a rolling fiscal and policy disaster which represents the biggest mistake in the state’s history, and anybody with some honesty and vision can easily see what a boondoggle it is.

And if the Republican Party can’t take Edwards on and kick his ass in a red state over this issue, then shame on them. Not only are you missing a golden opportunity to win an election and move the state to the right, you’re surrendering on something which is manifestly bad for its people. Some things are worth fighting for, and this is one.

Abraham deserves credit for fighting. If it means Edwards’ camp compounds their lies about Medicaid’s economic impact by accusing Abraham of leaving poor people in the street without healthcare, so be it – it’s still worthwhile for him to fight.

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