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Issue Analysis

    Ohio Becomes Medicaid Expansion Twilight Zone

    03/20/2013

    Ohio has become a Medicaid expansion Twilight Zone, as avowedly conservative Governor John Kasich works with progressive activists to deliver new entitlement benefits with money that doesn't exist. Ohio's press, which loves the idea of "free" federal funding through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), repeats pro-expansion falsehoods without a hint of skepticism.

    Exploring Kasich's decision to pursue the PPACA Medicaid expansion, it's easy to wonder if maybe words don't mean what you thought they did. Is "trillion" not a number that equals a thousand billion? Aren't federal taxes something that people in Ohio and every other state have to pay?

    In the Medicaid expansion Twilight Zone, it's "humane" to increase the $16.7 trillion national debt by making a broken program bigger. If, as the Ohio Liberty Coalition did, you warn Republican legislators not to back the expansion, expect to be called a "rigid intimidator" who is "bent on society's regression" by a leading member of the media.

    Because in this warped dimension, the media's purpose is not holding government accountable, but helping government grow.

    "If we don’t spend it, it is not as if that money is going to be somehow saved," Governor's Office of Health Transformation Director Greg Moody asserted in February 14 Ohio House testimony.

    This is false; PPACA Medicaid expansion funding is not a defined pot of money being divided among the states that play along. Each state that takes the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) up on its open-ended Medicaid expansion funding promise will further increase the national debt.

    "The question is, is it coming back to Ohio, or is it going somewhere else," Moody added.

    Again, this is simply not true, because each state's PPACA Medicaid expansion funding is new spending caused by that state's Medicaid expansion in compliance with President Obama's 2010 health law.

    Considering that we're talking about billions of dollars in deficit spending per year, and PPACA Medicaid expansion funding is a fairly simple concept, Moody can't get away with this... right?

    Wrong. In the Medicaid expansion Twilight Zone, Ohio's media report that Ohio must expand Medicaid in order to keep other states from spending "Ohio's" money. Even though there is no such thing as "Ohio's" money, because there is no money.

    Governor Kasich repeated Moody's false assertions in his February 19 State of the State address, telling the General Assembly they "have an unprecedented opportunity to bring $13 billion of Ohio’s tax dollars back to Ohio."

    A patently untrue statement to the tune of billions per year - made in the governor's biggest annual speech - and Ohio's media repeated it dutifully.

    No big deal, because what really matters is that Ohio's nonprofit hospitals need Medicaid expansion to remain solvent. Except they don't - but a few hours of research to investigate hospital lobby claims is too much to ask of the Twilight Zone press.

    At any rate, Ohio's legislature can expand Medicaid eligibility and then back out if HHS changes the rules, no harm done. Except they cannot, according to convincing arguments which are downplayed or ignored by the Ohio media.

    But, you ask, how can we blame the media for taking assurances from Governor Kasich and HHS at face value? After all, PPACA is complicated and maybe there's no one in Ohio to tell them otherwise.

    Not so. Over the past six weeks I have done "real" reporters' work for them and practically begged them to tell the truth, like a dweeby 5'8" version of Charlton Heston in any number of bleak sci-fi flicks. Ohio's treasurer, Opportunity Ohio, The Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions, and numerous national free market think tanks have offered fact-based critiques of Kasich administration talking points.

    Alas, in Ohio, public debt is charity, promoting bigger government is journalism, and all the pretty girls have pig snouts. And fiscal conservative John Kasich is prudently limiting the impact of Obamacare by pushing a key component of Obamacare, using rhetoric crafted by lobbyists for socialized medicine.

    Follow Jason on Twitter: @jasonahart