October 12, 2020

We see lots of ads these days making distorted assertions. Medicaid expansion has been a favorite topic. One of the most egregious examples is the liberals’ assertion in a TV ad that NC Senator Bob Steinburg is to blame for patients’ deaths in his district because North Carolina doesn’t have Medicaid expansion to keep struggling hospitals open.

In big letters the ad says Steinburg “Blocked hundreds of millions from rural hospitals.”

That is a stretch of a string of facts that is harshly distorted and we think is false. They’ve taken the tragic story of a woman who died in a county where the hospital had recently closed and blamed it on politics.

What the ad doesn’t say is their assertion is based on the fact that Steinburg voted on a state budget that didn’t include Governor Cooper’s favorite mantra, Medicaid expansion.

For back-up, the ad uses an article penned by a writer for the leftist NC Budget and Tax Center entitled “Why Medicaid Expansion Right Treatment for NC’s Rural Hospitals” (which then got placed in the Triangle Business Journal) to tie Medicaid expansion to the problems hospitals are facing in rural North Carolina.

The truth is the Medicaid expansion issue originally arose out of Obamacare in 2012 from the need to fix the health insurance coverage gap for individuals. Its focus was not hospitals.

The estimated population of individuals who might be helped by Medicaid expansion according to the Governor is around 500-600,000 people.

It’s really a shell game issue. Medicaid expansion sounds good in that it makes you think it would go to help poor, low-income families who aren’t covered with health insurance. However, in 2019, 60 percent of the number of people estimated to benefit from Medicaid expansion were “either eligible for government-subsidized health coverage through the federal exchange or are already receiving health insurance through their employer.” In fact, one study estimates that 63 percent of individuals who would be covered by Medicare expansion already have private insurance.

So less than half of the “coverage gap” population really exists.  And who are the folks left that might benefit?  Does it include that image you may have of the lowly family of a mother and small children?

No. Children are already eligible for Medicaid. So how about low-income pregnant women?  No, they are already for eligible for Medicaid. Severely disabled individuals? No, they are already eligible. So who DOES it include?

The population who would become eligible for coverage under Medicaid expansion are able-bodied adults between the ages of 18 and 50. That’s a surprise to most people, but in a nutshell it’s mainly low-income adults without children.

As to hospitals, their plight is usually not even brought up in the articles on Medicaid expansion – typically commentaries on that issue are about helping individuals.  At least until this enterprising writer decided the liberals might need it in a TV ad to tug at voters’ heartstrings. To blame this poor family’s tragedy on the lack of Medicaid expansion is a travesty.

As Senate Leader Phil Berger said last year, “Expansion of Medicaid will do nothing to train additional doctors, nurses, therapists, or other health care professionals. It will not make more hospital rooms, surgical suites, or diagnostic venues available.”

So the liberals’ accusations against Senator Steinburg are what you’ve come to expect in so much advertising today – so far a stretch of the facts that it is simply false.

For a fuller explanation of the conservative position against Medicaid expansion, go to this piece by Senate Leader Phil Berger to understand the whole picture in context.