Med­i­caid is not the an­swer to what ails our health care sys­tem

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - By Mercedes Sch­lapp

Has Med­i­caid be­come the gold stan­dard for our health care sys­tem? For Democrats and mod­er­ate Repub­li­cans, the gov­ern­ment-run pro­gram is be­com­ing their fa­vored so­lu­tion for those lack­ing health in­surance. Pro­vid­ing choices for Amer­i­cans in a free mar­ket health care sys­tem has slowly eroded un­der Oba­macare’s weight. The health in­surance com­pa­nies con­tinue to pull out of mar­kets, es­pe­cially in ru­ral Amer­ica.

This week, Bloomberg re­ported that health in­surer An­them Inc. would quit of­fer­ing Oba­macare plans in much of Ne­vada, and 8,000 peo­ple in 13 coun­ties will not have op­tions on the in­di­vid­ual in­surance ex­changes. Oba­macare’s prob­lems have cre­ated a na­tional cri­sis, and the so­lu­tion in the lib­eral minds is more Med­i­caid.

The ex­pan­sion of Med­i­caid is trou­bling be­cause more states have grown de­pen­dent on the fed­eral money to cover the unin­sured, cre­at­ing a dis­in­cen­tive to pur­chase pri­vate health in­surance. Med­i­caid, orig­i­nally cre­ated to cover poor women, chil­dren and the dis­abled, has be­come a de­fault crutch for mil­lions more Amer­i­cans.

Democrats pride them­selves in us­ing Med­i­caid to throw mil­lions more Amer­i­cans onto a gov­ern­ment-run pro­gram. They barely men­tion sal­vaging the in­di­vid­ual mar­ket and re­duc­ing pre­mi­ums, and in­stead of­fer Med­i­caid as the panacea for mid­dle-class Amer­i­cans be­ing squeezed out of the pri­vate mar­ket­place.

But Med­i­caid ex­pan­sion cre­ates dis­in­cen­tives to work and keeps peo­ple trapped in a cy­cle of de­pen­dency and poverty. Bloomberg re­ported that sev­eral stud­ies, in­clud­ing a 2014 Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice anal­y­sis, make the case that Med­i­caid re­sults in “sig­nif­i­cant and last­ing re­duc­tions in em­ploy­ment” for adults with­out chil­dren, ac­cord­ing to a Na­tional Bureau of Eco­nomic Re­search work­ing pa­per.

This re­search showed that if 21 mil­lion ad­di­tional adults en­roll in Med­i­caid, em­ploy­ment will fall by be­tween 511,000 and 2.2 mil­lion peo­ple. The 2014 CBO study also ad­dressed this is­sue of Oba­macare’s Med­i­caid ex­pan­sion hav­ing a neg­a­tive ef­fect on the la­bor sup­ply. Med­i­caid brings peo­ple down and does not give able-bod­ied men and women any in­cen­tive to par­tic­i­pate in the work­force.

While mod­er­ate Repub­li­cans and lib­er­als want to curb the ex­pan­sion of Med­i­caid, they should also re­mem­ber that push­ing for an ex­pan­sion of this en­ti­tle­ment pro­gram is not a healthy so­lu­tion for our la­bor mar­ket. Amer­i­cans want real choices and not just a poorly run gov­ern­ment pro­gram as their only op­tion.

The ex­pan­sion of Med­i­caid is just the first step to­ward the sin­gle-payer sys­tem so beloved by the left. It is their vi­sion for Amer­ica’s fu­ture health care sys­tem, a sys­tem where com­pe­ti­tion is un­der­mined and more Amer­i­cans de­pend on the gov­ern­ment for help.

Now it’s time for Pres­i­dent Trump to make his case to vot­ers that real re­forms are needed to fix Oba­macare. He needs to use his bully pul­pit to de­liver the mes­sage and ex­plain why these changes are needed to help sta­bi­lize the in­di­vid­ual mar­kets and help the mid­dle class deal with the ris­ing pre­mium costs.

While he’s at it, he can ex­plain that it’s not help­ful to push more able-bod­ied work­ing Amer­i­cans into Med­i­caid. We need to make health care more af­ford­able, where in­di­vid­u­als can pick their own op­tions in­stead of be­ing left out in the cold or forced into a gov­ern­ment pro­gram.

A gov­ern­ment pro­gram, by def­i­ni­tion, can never be the gold stan­dard. Mercedes Sch­lapp is a Fox News con­trib­u­tor, co-founder of Cove Strate­gies and for­mer White House di­rec­tor of spe­cialty me­dia un­der Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush.

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