Several of Tennessee’s mainstream media outlets seem to continue a drumbeat for Medicaid expansion in the state, even though some groups have long said it’s a bad idea.
Nashville Public Radio, for instance, reported that Democrats in the Tennessee General Assembly want to move forward with expanded Medicaid this year. They think they can do it with new Republican Gov. Bill Lee during his first year in office.
Writers for The Daily Memphian, meanwhile, profiled how House Minority Leader Karen Camper, D-Memphis, urged Lee to widen Medicaid coverage and take back the authority to negotiate a federal plan without state legislators’ approval.
Last October, The Tennessee Star quoted the Nashville-based Beacon Center of Tennessee on the matter. Beacon is a free market think tank.
In an op-ed, Beacon warned all Tennessee officials to resist temptations to expand Medicaid.
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 said.
“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.