, Corbin, KY


July 12, 2013

Jumping on Obamacare’s Medicaid bandwagon while tumbling over the fiscal cliff

CORBIN — While the constitutionality of Gov. Steve Beshear’s decision to heave Kentucky onto Obamacare’s Medicaid wagon – the one that rolled through the hills of the Bluegrass State last May - is being challenged in court, there also are plenty of concerns about whether adding hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians to the government health-care dole is worth the cost.

New information about the burden states that bite into Obamacare’s apple will add to the nation’s deficit offers even more doubt that Beshear’s plan to make Kentucky’s broken Medicaid system bigger - rather than better - is sound policy.

The Kaiser Family Foundation’s analysis of recent Congressional Budget Office figures indicates that if all 50 states acquiesce to Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, it will add $952 billion to the federal deficit by 2022.

If both the court challenge and legislative efforts fail to stop Beshear’s train, Kentucky alone will be responsible for increasing the nation’s deficit by nearly $19 billion by 2022. Add in the deficits that would be created if the six surrounding states that have yet to jump on Obamacare’s Medicaid train and this region of the country alone would add more than $167 billion to the federal deficit by the same year.

Such exorbitant spending might be more justified if government programs actually made people healthier. Alas, the evidence just isn’t there.

In fact, supporters of the federal Medicaid expansion in Kentucky unknowingly illustrate this point vividly.

When Beshear announced his plans to expand Medicaid in the commonwealth, he made a big deal of the fact that Kentucky is one of the nation’s least healthy states.

There’s no denying that fact here. Kentucky has the nation’s highest smoking rates and cancer deaths, the third-highest number of heart attacks and is among the nation’s top-10 in diabetes and several other unfavorable categories.

No doubt exists about the severity of the malady. It’s the cure that’s more-than-questionable.

Beshear has couched his enthusiasm for getting more federal dollars in grand statements about how Obamacare will bring about a Messianic-like deliverance for Kentucky’s sick.

Yet if the salvation of the ill health of our state’s lower-income residents comes through increased spending on government programs, then the commonwealth should already be much healthier than it is.

Total federal and state spending on Medicaid has risen nearly 60 percent during the past 14 years – from $3.3 billion in 1999 to nearly $6 billion currently. Kentucky, which currently is responsible for around 30 percent of those Medicaid costs, now takes $1.5 billion per year for Medicaid out of its General Fund for the program – nearly double the $802 million spent in 1999.

When Beshear announced his plans to expand the commonwealth’s Medicaid program, which could add as many as 308,000 patients to the plan, he declared that it was “the single most important decision of our lifetime for improving the health of Kentuckians.”

After doing “the exhaustive research,” Beshear said his policy would “provide better access to health care for our people.”

Here’s a question that Beshear needs to answer before committing the health and wallets of Kentuckians to expanding the size of Medicaid rather than reforming it: How will simply expanding this program - which has been around since the 1960s and which, despite significant spending increases, has failed to slow heart-attack and cancer-death rates - improve the health of our state?

In a Bluegrass Institute report analyzing the likely impact of expanding Medicaid rolls in the commonwealth, University of Kentucky economist John Garen also concluded the research simply does not support the idea that just spending more money to expand the program will improve Kentuckians’ health.

Add in the inevitable downgrade in the nation’s deficit condition, and it seems Obamacare’s Medicaid wagon has already crashed.

Jim Waters is vice president of policy and communications for the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at Read previously published columns at

Text Only
  • LIKE IT OR NOT: MLB's All Star effort was a bust

    With the 85th edition of Major League Baseball’s All-Star game in the books, I have to say I feel like the whole thing was a complete bust.

    July 18, 2014

  • THE WAY IT IS: Some local teams can make a run

    Well folks, our Little League All-Star action is beginning to wind down, and I’ve been fortunate enough to see two of the Tri-County’s resp

    July 17, 2014

  • LIKE IT OR NOT: It's been a very busy summer

    While a lot of people would expect the local sports scene to slow down in the Tri-County in the summer time, that’s not usually the case for us here at the Times-Tribune.

    July 16, 2014

  • John Ross.jpg May we all cherish those few WWII vets who still live

    I watch this old BBC program pretty often called “Are You Being Served?” It’s mostly out of syndication — what shows remain can be seen most often through PBS.

    July 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0502 Bobbie Poynter So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, adieu

    I never have been very good at saying goodbye — family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, community — for years you’ve had my back and in turn, I believe I’ve had yours.

    July 7, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ronnie Ellis.jpg ‘Uh hummm!’ It’s been an interesting week

    One column can’t cover everything from a busy week of political events, but here are some quick takeaways from last week.

    July 7, 2014 1 Photo

  • Brad Hall.jpg Let’s multiply our numbers like fleas do

    Last Saturday, my wife, Carmen, and I spent the day at the Kings Island theme park near Cincinnati, Ohio.

    July 7, 2014 1 Photo

  • John Burkhart.jpg Not an earthly trace

    Just married (1897) and in his late 20’s, my grandfather was determined to make a living on a hillside farm covered in wilderness; much as his father had done before him in 1846  when he arrived from Germany.

    July 7, 2014 1 Photo

  • Brad Hall.jpg Col. Mustard with the candlestick in Heaven

    One of my favorite movies is the murder mystery comedy “Clue,” which is based on the popular board game of the same name.

    June 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • John Burkhart.jpg Now or Never

    A story is told of an old widower who decided it was time to find a new wife. He chose to look for this new bride through the obituaries column; identifying new widows.

    June 30, 2014 1 Photo