Obamacare’s Strain on Medicaid

Mitch McConnell
Mitch McConnell

Obamacare has proven to be a disaster for Kentucky. It has caused 280,000 residents to lose health insurance plans they already have. And Obamacare is taking away the ability for many to visit the doctors and hospitals they like. Now to that list of problems, add one more: Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. It very likely will cost the taxpayers of Kentucky dearly in the years to come and degrade access to care for many in the Commonwealth.

Medicaid was created with the noble goal of providing a health safety net to the disabled and the poorest of the poor. Eventually, however, it has come to place an enormous strain on taxpayers across Kentucky and America.

Governor Beshear didn’t help matters when he chose in 2011 to move Kentucky’s Medicaid enrollees to a managed-care system. As a result, in the months that followed, patients were denied treatments and forced to travel long distances for care. Doctors and hospitals went for months with unpaid bills by health plans. Many Kentuckians in the Medicaid managed-care system have had difficulty getting dental care because dentists can’t get the prior authorization they need. Not a good omen for Medicaid expansion.

Now with the enactment of Obamacare, a bad problem is about to get worse. A major component of the Obamacare law permits states to expand Medicaid, and this past May Governor Beshear announced a second decision, this time to add 300,000 Kentuckians to this failing Medicaid system.

The big spenders in Frankfort and Washington are spinning this as “free” health care. But there’s no such thing as a “free” government program. One hundred percent of these costs will be picked up by the taxpayer—and that means you.

The more of Kentucky’s budget that goes to pay for the costs of these new Medicaid enrollees, the fewer dollars will be available in years to come for other priorities like schools, roads, and law enforcement. Even Governor Beshear has previously conceded, “I have no idea how we’re going to pay for it.” No idea.

What’s more, because Medicaid is financially unstable, the number of doctors and hospitals willing and able to participate in the program is declining. In fact, the state auditor’s office released a report that discovered a 57-percent reduction in general hospitals providing care to Medicaid patients from the time of the governor’s decision in 2011 to July 2013.

On top of this, our state already faces a shortfall of 3,700 doctors. That means we already needed 3,700 doctors for the Commonwealth just to meet the demand for health care prior to Obamacare.

Now, with hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians newly eligible for Medicaid, major questions arise: How will these newly eligible recipients access doctors under Obamacare? What good is it to offer hundreds of thousands of people the promise of coverage if Kentucky’s Medicaid system cannot even provide timely access to care for the existing Medicaid population? Raising the hopes of so many new Medicaid enrollees in Kentucky and then squelching them is not what I call progress.

Enough is enough. We need to fix Medicaid for Kentuckians with serious medical conditions and those who truly need it—not stretch it past its breaking point by adding more people to an already over-burdened system at added cost to taxpayers.

By Senator Mitch McConnell, December 12, 2013

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