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Ohio Newspapers Circle the Wagons for Obamacare Medicaid Expansion

Papers work to advance a policy their editors have endorsed

Ohio’s largest newspapers have refused to report on research that undermines arguments for the Obamacare Medicaid expansion, which would make more low-income Ohioans dependent on government without necessarily improving their health.

The Columbus Dispatch, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Cincinnati EnquirerAkron Beacon Journal, and Toledo Blade have circled their wagons around several major studies contradicting Governor John Kasich’s pro-Obamacare narrative.

For instance, a National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) working paper released in early July reviewed a 2005 Tennessee cut to Medicaid eligibility. The authors concluded the Obamacare Medicaid expansion could shift up to 4.2 million Americans from private health insurance into Medicaid and cost 940,000 jobs by reducing incentives for able-bodied childless adults to find work.

How have the DispatchPlain DealerEnquirerBeacon Journal, and Blade responded to this news about a policy they’ve endorsed as a way to help the poor and boost Ohio’s economy?

They have pretended the NBER paper doesn’t exist. July 29 LexisNexis searches for “National Bureau of Economic Research,” “TennCare,” and the authors’ names all came up empty.

This omission is the latest in a months-long trend from newspapers that have helped the Kasich Administration hide worrisome Obamacare Medicaid expansion cost projections.

On May 1, The New England Journal of Medicine published a study of Oregon’s Medicaid program concluding Medicaid coverage “generated no significant improvements in measured physical health outcomes in the first 2 years,” and did not produce “significant changes in visits to the emergency department or hospital admissions.”

The DispatchPlain DealerEnquirerBeacon Journal, and Blade have all repeated the Republican governor’s assurances Medicaid expansion would make Ohio’s poor healthier while easing the strain on hospitals and privately-insured Ohioans by reducing emergency room visits.

What sort of news treatment have contradictory findings printed in one of the world’s most prestigious medical journals warranted during the past three months?

The Enquirer published a June 23 op-ed from Buckeye Institute President Robert Alt which noted the results from Oregon. No Enquirer news stories discussed the study, and the other four papers ignored it completely.

Keep in mind, the Dispatch alone ran 60 news stories about the Obamacare Medicaid expansionbetween February 4 and June 18, with titles including “Medicaid expansion crucial to mentally ill,” and “Without Medicaid expansion, poorest lose.”

On March 13, Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA) CEO Tarren Bragdon gave Ohio House testimony detailing FGA’s analysis of Medicaid expansions in Arizona, Delaware, Maine, and Oregon. FGA Research Director Jonathan Ingram shared the same data in a white paper published on June 12 by Opportunity Ohio.

FGA found that in all four states, expanding Medicaid did not reduce the percentage of the population without health insurance as proponents promised; instead, citizens were pushed from private insurance into Medicaid.

Not once have the DispatchPlain DealerEnquirerBeacon Journal, or Blade reported FGA’s findings.

On March 11, Media Trackers published a review of charity care funding Ohio Hospital Association (OHA) members reported in their IRS filings, which revealed that most OHA members would have netted millions in their most recent fiscal years even with no charity care offsets.

Kasich and OHA have used Obamacare cuts to charity care funding as an argument for expanding Medicaid, warning that without Medicaid expansion hospitals around the state will be unable to afford charity care. Newspapers have carried this warning far and wide since early February.

The DispatchPlain DealerEnquirerBeacon Journal, and Blade have ignored evidence this talking point is false, though Alt cited our work during the same March 13 House hearing where Bragdon testified.

All five papers have also neglected to mention that 28 percent of Ohio doctors already refused to take new Medicaid patients in 2011, even though this fact was included in a March 2013 report from the Health Policy Institute of Ohio (HPIO), whose January study supporting Medicaid expansion the papers have quoted frequently.

The same is true of Gov. Kasich’s claims the Obamacare Medicaid expansion would be funded by “$13 billion of Ohio’s tax dollars” that will be spent in other states if the legislature refuses to expand Medicaid. Media Trackers first debunked this talking point on February 18, and Cato Institute Health Policy Director Michael Cannon refuted it during March 13 House testimony.

This may be the clearest sign of how much news Ohio’s “objective” news outlets are willing to obstruct: for over four months, Ohio’s five largest newspapers have had proof the governor is misleading Ohioans about billions per year in Obamacare funding – and not one reporter has breathed a word of it.

This story was originally published at Media Trackers Ohio.

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