Since it looks like Ohio Gov. John Kasich's going to be in the national spotlight awhile longer, America may need a decoder ring for his health policy talking points.
If you've followed my coverage of Kasich's Obamacare expansion over the past three years, you're up to speed. If not... well, it'd be easy to assume Kasich's record is solid, given the caliber of Ohio newspaper coverage:
Kasich had no problem crushing that "do you regret Medicaid expansion" question from Cooper.
— Jim Siegel (@phrontpage) February 19, 2016
Like any politician, Kasich has a set of canned responses he gives when he's asked about a decision as big as his decision to expand Medicaid. Like many politicians, Kasich uses canned responses that vary from strongly misleading to entirely false.
The following four quotes are from the Feb. 18 CNN town hall that Kasich "ruled," according to CNN contributor and Bernie Sanders enthusiast Dean Obeidallah.
I don't know how to make actual decoder rings, but consult a local origami practitioner for help fashioning a printed version of this post into stylish reference jewelry.
Kasich statement: "We took our Medicaid program that was growing at 10.5% and reduced it to 2.5% in the second year I was governor without cutting one benefit or throwing one person off the rolls."
Translation: I slowed Medicaid growth before expanding Medicaid under Obamacare so I'm going to talk about that instead of Obamacare expansion.
Kasich loves to cite this 2.5% growth figure, but Kasich increased Ohio's Medicaid spending by 33% during his first term. Ohio Medicaid spending was $17.7 billion in fiscal 2011 and $23.5 billion in fiscal 2015.
It's true that previously-eligible Ohioans haven't been cut from Medicaid yet. But pending changes to the state's eligibility determination process are likely to throw thousands of disabled Ohioans from the rolls, and last year Kasich proposed reducing the eligibility limit for pregnant women and women with breast or cervical cancer from 200% of the poverty line to 138% of the poverty line.
Kasich statement: "So what would I do? I'd take some federal resources and I'd combine it with a freed-up Medicaid plan to continue to cover the working poor. We can't eliminate this and have tens of millions of Americans without health insurance."
Translation: I don't want to repeal three-fourths of Obamacare.
Based on the latest enrollment figures from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, 243,715 Ohioans have Obamacare exchange plans. Based on the latest Ohio Department of Medicaid data, 648,033 Ohioans are enrolled in Kasich's Obamacare Medicaid expansion. In other words, 73% of Ohio's Obamacare enrollment is through the Medicaid expansion President Kasich would not roll back.
Kasich statement: "Once we stabilized the program, I had the opportunity to bring these dollars back."
Translation: I'm increasing federal welfare spending by billions of dollars per year, but let's pretend it's not new spending because I'm campaigning as a fiscal conservative.
This Kasich talking point comes in a variety of flavors. When he says his Obamacare expansion is paid for by bringing "Ohio money" back to Ohio, that's simply not true. When he talks more vaguely about bringing money "back," it's run-of-the-mill misleading.
There's not some Scrooge McDuck silo of Ohio money in DC that was locked up waiting for Kasich to expand Medicaid; Obamacare expansion is paid for with new federal deficit spending. Kasich's Obamacare expansion has cost more than $6 billion already.
Kasich statement: "This has worked out great for us, and we're saving money, and we're giving people an opportunity to be able to get their lives back. And I think it's been terrific."
Translation: We're saving a little money by spending a lot of money but LOL nobody will challenge me so I can say whatever.
Kasich's Obamacare expansion was $1.5 billion over budget after just 18 months. It's on track to double cost projections by 2020.
Kasich pretends Obamacare expansion is a program for drug addicts, the mentally ill, and the working poor. It's not. Eligibility for Kasich's Obamacare expansion is based on income alone.
I've repeatedly asked the Ohio Dept. of Medicaid for current data showing how many expansion enrollees are working and how many are receiving drug addiction or mental health treatment; they refuse to respond.
Listen to Kasich at any debate or town hall, and these same themes will come up again and again — even when Kasich isn't asked about Obamacare. Everything about Kasich's campaign trail "Prince of Light and Hope" schtick, in fact, is tailored around his 2013 decision to embrace Obamacare.
At the Feb. 13 South Carolina debate, Kasich flat-out lied to The Wall Street Journal's Kimberly Strassel when she asked about cost overruns in his Obamacare expansion, telling her, "those numbers are incorrect, we are coming in below cost estimates."
Kasich statement: "Economic growth is not an end unto itself - we want everyone to rise and we will make them personally responsible for the help that they get, and that is exactly the program we're driving in Ohio."
Translation: Please oh please oh please nobody realize Obamacare expansion isn't paid for through Ohio's job growth and the program has no work requirements.
For years Kasich has talked about Obamacare expansion as a natural outgrowth of Ohio's improving economy, pretending Obamacare expansion is affordable because of Ohio's (middling) economic rebound. It's not.
As explained above, Obamacare expansion is paid for with new federal deficit spending. In no way is Obamacare expansion a product of Ohio's growing economy.
PS, Obamacare expansion - which puts working-age adults with no kids and no disabilities on welfare - has no work requirements.
Kasich statement: "With Obamacare, I've not only sued the administration, I did not set up an exchange. And he knows that I'm not for Obamacare, never have been."
Translation: I am for Obamacare and I realize Republican primary voters hate Obamacare.
In 2013, Kasich fought for Obamacare expansion for months. When the Ohio General Assembly passed a budget banning Obamacare expansion, Kasich vetoed the ban, unilaterally expanded Medicaid, and threatened to bankrupt the whole Ohio Medicaid program if the quasi-legislative Ohio Controlling Board didn't appropriate Obamacare expansion money. If that's what being "not for Obamacare" looks like, imagine if Kasich was for it!
Cato's Michael Cannon has a more detailed look at Kasich's talking points about suing the Obama administration and refusing to create a state-run exchange. You should read it.
Kasich also loves to act like President Reagan would be a huge supporter of Obamacare expansion, a bit of desperate spin former Reagan chief of staff Ed Meese debunked back in 2013.
If you're interested in a video debunking many of the same talking points discussed in this post, here's something I put together for Hot Air a couple of debates ago: