- - Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The U.S. Supreme Court delivered a major blow to the Obama administration when it decided the federal government could not force states to expand their Medicaid programs. Luckily for taxpayers, quite a few states decided they did not want to expand the program.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 21 states have rejected the massive boondoggle that is the expansion of Medicaid. For taxpayers’ sake, I can only wish it were more.

States like New Jersey decided to expand the federal program. This may become a political problem for New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie,  which was recently highlighted in an article in The Washington Times. Other states like Wisconsin, home of Republican Gov. Scott Walker, decided to reject the expansion.

Mr. Christie’s office is making the same mistake that supporters of the expansion are making in Wisconsin. They claim it will save taxpayers money.

According to The Washington Times article, New Jersey would save $181 million next year by accepting the Medicaid expansion. But Mr. Christie’s office conveniently forgets to mention the amount that federal taxpayers have to cover. You know, the taxpayers who are nearly $18 trillion in debt.

Supporters of the expansion are pointing to a similar report in Wisconsin from the state’s non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau. According to the memo, state taxpayers would save up to $521 million over the next two years. However, federal taxpayers –- many of whom live in the great State of Wisconsin -– would be on the hook for $1.27 billion.

The last time I checked, taxpayers are taxpayers. Whether the money is going to the federal government or the state government, it is still coming out of our wallet. In Wisconsin’s case, the Medicaid expansion would cost taxpayers an additional $752 million.

Not only was Wisconsin right to reject the expansion, Mr. Walker reformed the system to ensure there was no coverage gap. According to Kaiser, Wisconsin is the only state to reject the Medicaid expansion that does not have a coverage gap.

Prior to Mr. Walker’s reforms, there was a massive waitlist for people in poverty to get access to Medicaid coverage, even though many people living above the poverty line were covered. The reforms instead provide Medicaid to everyone living in poverty and transitioned those above the poverty line to the Obamacare exchanges.

For the first time, everyone in Wisconsin had access to affordable health coverage. That is something the 20 other states that rejected the expansion simply cannot say.

States that want to provide a hand up for the truly needy should follow in Wisconsin’s footsteps.

Taxpayers should still be happy if they live in a state that rejected the expansion, though, because they are not adding to the country’s debt, and they will not be stuck with the bill if the federal government decides to break its promise.

Under the federal Affordable Care Act, the feds pay for 100 percent of the Medicaid expansion for the first few years. But, by the year 2020, states have to kick in 10 percent.

Even with the government promising to pay 90 percent of the costs, many have raised questions about the government’s ability to follow through.

In fact, Rep. Paul Ryan recently said when it comes to the federal budget, the 90 percent match rate on Medicaid would never last. The Wisconsin Republican made the comments at an event in Milwaukee promoting his new book, “The Way Forward: Renewing the American Idea.” (The event was hosted by the John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy, where I am director of communications.)

“The first thing that’s going to go in a budget-cutting exercise, with the kind of deficits we have at the federal government, as a budget writer, I can tell you, are 90 percent match rates,” Mr. Ryan said when asked if the government would keep its promise. “There is no way the federal government – I don’t care who is in power – is going to continue reimbursing states at 100 to 90 percent on Medicaid.”

Mr. Ryan added that the idea to cut the rate had already come up during last year’s budget negotiations.

For taxpayers to think the Medicaid expansion will do anything but add to the federal government’s exploding debt is absurd. States need to take things into their own hands and stop this massive overreach by Washington.

States like Florida, Oklahoma and Wisconsin have already made the smart move to reject the expansion. States like Arizona, New Jersey and Ohio made the wrong decision for taxpayers, but luckily still have time to change their mind.

I would suggest they do just that.

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