Medicaid expansion is a good thing. Ask Mitt Romney!
I never thought I would see, in America, what I saw as I came out of the Harvard University campus onto one of the streets of Cambridge, Massachusetts a few months ago. There she was, sitting on the side of the road with a sign that said, “Cancer patient. Please help.” I was stunned. I went and talked to her. She said she was 52 years old and diagnosed with bladder cancer that might have spread to her liver. She had no family or health insurance. Thanks to Medicare and Mass Health, the state run insurance, she was able to get some medical treatments, including chemotherapy. She was glad to be in Massachusetts because everybody in that state was mandated to have health insurance. According to her, unlike in many other states, if citizens of Massachusetts didn’t have enough money to buy private health insurance they would go to the state and apply for Mass Health and they would get it. She didn’t know the name of the governor that brought on such health coverage for the poor like her but sure was thankful to him.
That governor was Mitt Romney.
Romneycare was, in principle, the first Medicaid expansion before Obamacare and it worked by providing medical coverage for the poor as well as improving their health. Massachusetts is the only state with health coverage for nearly 100% (99.8% to be exact) of children and 98% of adults. By the way, Romney, in spite of incessant Obamcare bashing and demonization of federal government as the Republican Presidential candidate, was only able to pull that off because of the federal dollars.
So, I am somewhat perplexed about the wisdom and rationale of many Republican and some Democratic governors, when I hear that they are hesitating to expand Medicaid, even after the federal government said it would assume complete financial responsibility for such expansion for the first three years and for 90% a few years after that.
Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana and one of the five republican governors to refuse Medicaid expansion, said he would rather improve the economic condition of the residents of Louisiana, so that they can purchase private insurance, than expand Medicaid. With Republican majorities in the state senate and house, I am wondering who is stopping Mr. Jindal from doing that. By the way Louisiana takes more federal dollars than it contributes to the federal government. I know he admonished the Republican Party not to be a stupid party, after the recent shellocking in the elections, but am not sure of his wisdom regarding how he is going to suddenly turn the economy around and provide healthcare coverage to citizens of Louisiana without some federal help.
As far as Rick Perry, Governor of Texas, also one of the five, I am not sure if he even knows or understands about the three healthcare areas in Texas that are already receiving federal government money. After watching how he forgot the three federal departments that he would abolish, during the Republican presidential primaries, I won’t be surprised if he needs a refresher that Medicare, Medicaid and Veterans Affairs are the three areas Texas is already benefiting from federal dollars.
Recently, Rick Scott, governor of Florida, one of the most vocal opponents of Obamacare had a change of heart. He agreed to expand Medicaid. I don’t want to talk about the plans of Mr. Scott for Medicaid expansion in Florida, other than to warn Floridians to be careful about his alleged plans to privatize Medicaid. His history in healthcare industry, as a corporate hospital lawyer, should make every Floridian to be cautious. He was the CEO of Columbia-HCA, a private for profit hospital conglomerate company, when it was fined, the biggest ever amount in US history, for Medicare fraud; $1.7 Billion. Need I say more? Still, his desire to expand Medicaid is astonishing and a good thing for Florida.
A few months ago Rick Snyder, Republican governor of Michigan agreed to expand Medicaid in Michigan. As a practicing neurosurgeon in Flint, Michigan for 16 years, and having taken care of many patients with no insurance or inadequate insurance, I was glad and welcomed his decision. The expansion is expected to provide at least some health coverage to 470,000 Michiganders by 2021 and cut the uninsured of the state by half but the euphoria didn’t last long.
A few days ago the House health budget sub-committee in Republican controlled legislature of Michigan voted not to expand Medicaid. I don’t think those Republicans realize that the expansion is a good thing. They need to ask Romney. He knows it. He has been there and done it. He won’t admit that his signature legislation as the governor of Massachusetts, Romneycare, which is the father of Obamacare, has benefited many citizens of Commonwealth. But I have a feeling that deep in his heart he is proud of it.
Damn proud of it!