Mainstream media outlets across Tennessee continue to beat the drum for expanding Medicaid, hoping to sway most Volunteer State residents to see things their way.
But, as The Tennessee Star reported, expanding Medicaid brings peril.
A recent Tennessean article tried to make the case for expanded Medicaid. Opinion pieces in The Memphis Commercial Appeal and The Murfreesboro Post tried to do the same.
The Tennessean, for instance, wrote about how voters in deep-red Utah, Nebraska, and Idaho approved ballot initiatives to expand Medicaid.
“The results appear to show increasing non-partisan voter support for expansion, which was once a political lightning rod because of its legal framework under the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare,” according to The Tennessean.
“But, as nearly three-fourths of the nation have now expanded Medicaid, a critical question remains: Will Tennessee?”
If the program were to expand, the paper went on to say, more than 300,000 Tennesseans would qualify for coverage.
Tennessee, the paper added, loses out on about $1.4 billion in federal taxpayer funding per year.
Writing for The Commercial Appeal, McKenzie Mayor Jill Holland told readers that state taxpayers would pay nothing if Tennessee expanded Medicaid. Hospitals, she said, would pay the state’s share of the program’s costs.
Meanwhile, two Tennessee physicians — Brenda Butka and Joseph A. Little III, wrote The Murfreesboro Post opinion piece. In it, they blame no expanded Medicaid for eight rural hospitals closing in Tennessee.
But Beacon Executive Vice President Stephanie Whitt, writing for KnoxNews.com, said there are several important matters to consider, not the least of which is the notion Tennessee gets free money.
“This is not free money,” Whitt wrote in the piece.
“Expansion would be paid for with new federal taxpayer dollars, borrowed from our children and grandchildren, that are not guaranteed in the future. This could potentially put our state at risk to either shell out additional state taxpayer dollars to cover the expanded population or go through the painful process of kicking hundreds of thousands of people off the program.”
Medicaid is expensive, Whitt said.
TennCare costs Tennesseans $12 billion, eating up nearly a third of the state’s $37.5 billion total budget, she said.
“To put that in perspective, Tennessee is spending approximately $32.8 million per day on TennCare,” Whitt said.
“It is simply unrealistic to think we can expand our TennCare population by a minimum of 250,000 people (some estimates put that number even higher) and be able to sustain the program over time.”
States that have expanded Medicaid, like Ohio, saw far greater enrollment than originally projected, Whitt said.
Whitt quoted a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee study that said Medicaid expansion increases a state’s opioid epidemic.
Expanding Medicaid, she went on to say, does not stop rural hospitals from closing.
“In Tennessee, there have been closures, but most are because of consolidations with other hospitals nearby or a reduction in local population,” Whitt said.
“Many of the facilities continue to provide access to care in some way such as urgent care, emergency care and outpatient services.”
Whitt suggested Tennessee residents expand tele-health opportunities and repeal anti-competitive certificate-of-need laws.
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