Over the last few weeks, the focus of the media and of many Americans was on the Washington fight over Obamacare, the federal budget, and the national debt ceiling. The storyline is that conservatives overreached given they only control the House of Representatives and lost, thereby undermining their chances of picking up seats in the 2014 elections.
Everyone needs to take a breath, as far too often what happens in Washington drives the national narrative despite what is happening in the rest of America. The fact is conservatives are winning outside of Washington and, in so doing, are saving taxpayers more than half a trillion dollars.
Think about where we really are for just a moment. The fight that just ended in Washington only happened because conservatives have succeeded enormously in the states. Don’t think for a moment that conservatives in Washington would have mounted the fight they did without the major victories that occurred in state after state over the last year.
We must put the last three weeks into proper context.
First, at the same time that President Barack Obama was reelected, conservatives took control of more governor offices and state legislatures than at any time in modern history. There are now 30 center-right governors stretching from Arizona to Maine. In addition, conservatives now control 27 center-right state legislatures entirely and split power in five other states.
Because of that power, 27 states – a majority – rejected the Obamacare healthcare exchanges, forcing President Obama to MacGyver the federal healthcare exchange. The $360 million federal exchange (more than twice what Apple spent to develop the iPhone) is saddled with IT glitches and few actual people who have successfully acquired health insurance. This story will only get worse for the Left, as their enrollment projections are missed.
An even bigger story is that, for the first time in history, a majority of states have turned down “free” federal money. Specifically, 26 states have thus far opted not to expand Medicaid to 138 percent of the federal poverty rate in exchange for federal funding at 100 percent for the first three years and 90 percent thereafter. These smart states know all too well that their 10 percent share is 10 percent of a big unknown number that will force them to raise taxes or defund other state priorities. These states also know the odds that the federal government will meet its commitment on the 90 percent grow slimmer as entitlement spending swallows more and more of the federal budget each passing year.
This rejection of federal money means that those 26 states will save Americans more than $539 billion in federal deficit spending over the next ten years. Unlike the deal just cut in Washington, nixing half a trillion dollars in new entitlement spending from our national debt is a major victory for fiscal responsibility. In all likelihood, the savings will be a lot bigger because, as Matt Salo, the Executive Director of the National Association of State Medicaid Directors, noted in testimony: “More people show up than you think will show up, and the people that show up are sicker than you expected.”
The fight in the states isn’t over, as several states remain in play.
Specifically, because he has failed to convince conservative legislators to adopt his expansionist plans, Ohio Governor John Kasich is trying to circumvent the Ohio legislature by pushing Medicaid expansion through by an Executive Order and getting a constitutionally suspect slim majority from Ohio’s Controlling Board to approve the acceptance of the federal funds. In Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Corbett reversed course and is now pushing a private “Arkansas Plan” for expanding Medicaid. In Virginia and New Hampshire, Medicaid commissions will make recommendations over the next few months.
In these and other states, many state-based groups, including The Liberty Foundation of America, have been fighting in the trenches to make sure conservative governors and state legislatures make the right decision for taxpayers and for vulnerable populations. The last thing America should do is expand a program that costs too much, get mediocre results for current recipients, and is riddled with waste, fraud, and abuse.
We’ve done surveys in nine mostly battleground states of thousands of citizens. Those surveys unequivocally show that Republican and independent voters oppose Medicaid expansion. Those surveys also show that current Medicaid recipients are liberal-progressive voters, so expanding it likely will result in more liberal-progressive voters in key states. The Left knows exactly what is at stake here.
Americans deserve better and if states are freed to implement healthcare programs that they deem best for their citizens, these laboratories of competition will increase access to affordable care at a price taxpayers can bear. The fight for freedom, which we are winning, must and will go on.