Evidence from the latest Oregon Medicaid study shows that the program is not helping, and numerous other studies show that in some cases Medicaid may even be harming, the very people it is designed to assist.
President Obama argued during the health care debate that we can’t keep adding “more people to Medicare or Medicaid … in the absence of cost controls and reform,” putting them in a “broken system that doesn’t work.”
But that is just what Congress and the president did in enacting the health law. Expanding Medicaid means that patients who are already enrolled in the program – many of whom have nowhere else to go for coverage – will be competing for medical services with up to 20 million more people. And the most vulnerable patients who have the greatest needs are likely to have the hardest time getting care.
A father in Iowa wrote me saying that his handicapped daughter, who is on Medicaid, has to wait more than two months for a doctor’s appointment to treat her bladder problems: “She will have to wait six months next time” if hundreds of thousands more people are added to Medicaid in her home state. “No one takes into consideration what will happen to those who are currently on Medicaid.”
Our nation cannot afford to spend $450 billion a year on a program that is failing. Medicaid recipients and taxpayers deserve better.
We need to modernize the program to free recipients from the Medicaid ghetto so they can have the dignity of private coverage. The Healthy Indiana Plan is one creative option that has been highly popular. Citizens earning up to 200 percent of poverty start out with a POWER account they can use to purchase routine care, and catastrophic coverage kicks in for bigger medical bills.
Before they enacted the Medicaid expansion, political leaders knew Medicaid desperately needed to be modernized for the 21st century; Oregon shows it’s time to get serious about it.
Here’s a link to the whole New York Times exchange on More Medicaid, More Health?
Posted on The New York Times: Room for Debate, May 6, 2013.