One of the main failures of the Affordable Care Act was assuming that Republican governors would cooperate with the plan to give their constituents more health care. A central part of so-called “Obamacare” relied on governors accepting what was essentially free money from the federal government to fund Medicaid expansion. For the uninitiated, Medicaid is how a lot of poor people pay for health care in America. There are a lot of bizarre financial exceptions (ie: means testing) that make Medicaid more restrictive than it should be, and the ACA flooded the coffers of state government to expand this program. Many Republican governors decided it was better for them politically to reject free money for poor people’s health care, and instead make a big show of standing up to America’s first black president.
Proponents of Medicaid expansion here in Nebraska are not giving up. This week, the Nebraska Legislature is scheduled to debate whether to expand Medicaid under Obamacare. Since the last time I wrote about this issue two weeks ago, proponents of expansion released a study claiming that expanding Medicaid would be an economic boon for our state. Nebraskans, however, should not buy into claims that expansion of government entitlement programs are justified as something that “save(s), create(s) and support(s)” jobs. Nebraskans have never used subjective measures touting “saved” or “supported” jobs when determining the efficacy of entitlement expansions, and it would be irresponsible to begin doing so today.
History has shown that taking money from taxpayers and giving it to another group of individuals through an entitlement program does not result in real or sustainable economic development. If you could simply grow an economy through the transfer of wealth by government, poverty would not have existed under Soviet rule of Russia and our Federal Government could simply spend its way out of any recession. Expanding Medicaid will not result in the tax relief and good-paying jobs we need to grow Nebraska for the next generation.
This exact dynamic played out in Maine last year, where dumber version of Trump, Republican Governor Paul LePage, refused Medicaid expansion multiple times over his seven-year tenure. Proponents of Medicaid expansion finally got the measure to expand Medicaid on the ballot, and the voters overruled their intransigent governor and expanded Medicaid. This process has the potential to repeat itself in Nebraska now that Medicaid expansion has garnered enough signatures to land on November’s ballot. It will no doubt face intense opposition, as two GOP State Senators sued to try to stop the voters from even having a choice to decide on this matter.
However, this is not some plucky aberration, as Utah and Idaho also have measures to expand Medicaid on the ballot later this year. This is all the result of a concerted grassroots effort to enforce something resembling the popular will of both Republicans and Democrats (as majorities of both support Medicare for All). So far, 34 states have approved expanded Medicaid under the ACA, and we could add a few more deep-red states to that list in November. Our current system is so cruel and unsustainable that health care is emerging as a unifying issue amongst the intensely divided American electorate.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.