George W. Bush and Haley Barbour
WASHINGTON – Two Republican governors have warned Congress the increased Medicaid burden imposed by the president’s health care reform law could cause them to drastically raise taxes or cut programs unless they get greater flexibility in tailoring their own programs.
They also called on the Obama administration to expedite getting the health care law out of the lower courts and into the Supreme Court, so the states can plan their implementation of the health care law as 2014 approaches.
Expanding Medicaid to cover those making 138 percent above the federal poverty rate under the law could cost the states as much as $118 billion by 2023 – more than double than the $60 billion projected by the Congressional Budget Office – according to a joint report prepared by the Republican staffs on the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Senate Finance Committee.
Govs. Haley Barbour, R-Miss., and Gary Herbert, R-Utah, told the House Energy and Commerce Committee yesterday they need to be able to make modifications to the program without having to come to Washington to “kowtow and kiss the ring.”
“It is going to take a very big tax increase,” Barbour told the panel. “The federal act would require us to increase the [Medicaid] rolls by about two-thirds, or about 600,000 people to a million, a third of our population, because the costs are back-loaded, it would be $1.3 billion to $1.7 billion over 10 years.
“We are going to have to raise taxes or cut spending, and more likely, we will have to do both.”
Herbert testified the new Medicaid mandate could cost his state $1.2 billion to $1.3 billion over the next decade, which similarly could lead to cuts in education and other programs or serious tax increases.
Both governors expressed anxiety about the federal government’s slow response to their requests for waivers and its insistence on a one-size-fits-all solution to problems with Medicaid. Each state has different demographics and different requirements, which need different solutions, they suggested.
“The affordable care act gives the states flexibility as long as they do things the way Washington tells them,” Herbert said.
The governor noted it took the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the federal agency that oversees Medicaid, eight months to reply to his state’s request for a waiver to allow the state of Utah to communicate with recipients via e-mail.
But he pointed out the irony that his state’s request was rejected using e-mail and that it took a face-to-face conversation with President Obama to clear up the matter.
The Obama administration’s delay in granting the requested waivers to the states strikes some conservative activists as ironic, considering it acted quickly to grant waivers to unions and to companies with a history of supporting the president, such as General Electric.
“In the land of equal protection under the law, every individual and business should be exempted from Obamacare’s damages or none should,” said Alex Cortes, chairman of the Restore the Dream Foundation and Defundit.org, which aims to defund the health care law.
Herbert told the committee that the states should be empowered to be the real innovators and that the governors should be given the opportunity to do what works for their states.
“Massachusetts has a health care program that they’re obviously happy with, and we think that’s their right,” Barbour said. “If that’s what Massachusetts wants, we’re happy for them; we don’t want that.”
Barbour told the committee businesses will bear the brunt of increased costs stemming from the health care law that could harm the economy and cause employers to drop their existing coverage.
“That’s not good for us because we don’t want to have extremely high mandatory benefits packages,” Barbour said. “We all know our constituents a lot better than y’all do, but we want to do what we can afford and what we can sustain.”
But Massachusetts Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick, who also testified at the hearing, countered that his state has seen the number of uninsured decline since it began mandating health insurance coverage in 2007.
“The question about cost is something that’s with us, especially with working families whether we have the affordable care act or not: whether we have Medicaid or not,” Patrick said.
He said the right approach needs to focus on improving the quality of the delivery of care instead of changing Medicaid eligibility requirements like Barbour and other Republicans have advocated, because he believes doing so will reduce costs.
“We are realigning incentives, so we are paying for the quality of care rather than the quantity of care,” the Massachusetts governor said.
Patrick also disputed contentions the national health care law, which is modeled in some respects on his state’s law, would increase unemployment, noting Massachusetts’ unemployment rate is 1.5 percent below the national average.
Similarly, he said Massachusetts has not seen an increase in the number of businesses dropping their health coverage because of the his state’s health care law and that the opposite has been true.
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WND previously has reported on numerous special exemptions to the health law that the government has granted.
Among the beneficiaries are McDonald’s, Cigna Corp. and key labor unions that supported Obama publicly during his 2008 campaign.
Talk radio host Rush Limbaugh described the move as a series of “pardons.”