- - Thursday, February 12, 2015

I hate to say “I told you so,” but in this case I actually did. Back in August, I wrote a column for this paper calling on governors to say no to the massive boondoggle that is Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid.

It traps people in yet another government program and does nothing to help improve the health outcomes of the people it claims to serve. But for some reason, governors in states like Illinois and Ohio jumped at the possibility of more “free” money from Washington.

First of all, there is no such thing as free money from the federal government. Taxpayers are the ones footing the bill, and we are already $18 trillion in debt. We simply cannot afford it.

Secondly, the federal money that was promised is not going to last forever. By 2020, states that expand Medicaid will be on the hook for 10 percent of the costs associated with the expansion. And congressional leaders like Republican Paul Ryan are already saying the federal government will likely require states to kick in more than that down the line.

Even if the federal government keeps its promise, states are already anticipating massive increases in costs over previous estimates.

In Illinois, state taxpayers are expecting to pay nearly 60 percent more than was originally estimated from 2017 to 2020. State health officials first projected that Illinois would have to pay $573 million for the state’s portion of the expansion.

That number has jumped to $907 million. The reason for the dramatic hike is that far more people are signing up than first anticipated. In 2014, Illinois state officials expected 342,000 people to sign up for Medicaid under the expansion. However, by the end of December, more than 540,000 had signed up.

Illinois is not the only state seeing much higher sign-up rates. Ohio is in the same boat.

Gov. John Kasich, Ohio Republican, planned on having 366,000 people sign up for the expansion through July 2015. However, by December 2014, more than 470,000 people had signed up.

Many have argued the estimates were so low because they did not account for people that have now cancelled their private health insurance policies to enroll in Medicaid.

With so many people jumping onto the Medicaid rolls, the bill for taxpayers keeps going up. In December alone, the Medicaid expansion in Ohio cost federal taxpayers more than $300 million.

Come 2020, Ohio’s taxpayers will be expected to cover – at a minimum – 10 percent of that. I’d like to see Mr. Kasich’s plan to pay for it. Since he has already locked his car to the Medicaid expansion train, I don’t anticipate him changing his mind. So, just raise taxes?

Illinois, though, might have a chance to save taxpayers money and help move people off of government dependence.

Newly elected Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican, could try to reverse his predecessor’s decision on the expansion. He said during his campaign that he would have vetoed the legislation if it had come to his desk.

With a solidly Democratic legislature, it could be tough to overturn. But his recent executive order that essentially makes Illinois a right-to-work state for public employees shows he has the guts to take on the left.

At this time, 28 states and the District of Columbia have accepted the Medicaid expansion and seven more have yet to make a final decision. The good news is that states like Illinois can always make a different choice.

To the seven states still deciding, it is time to finally reject Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. To the 29 that accepted the expansion, it is not too late. Governors and the mayor of D.C. need to do what is right for taxpayers and reverse their decisions.

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