Commentary: Expanding Medicaid won’t fix the problem

Earlier this year, the Virginia Interfaith Center has been lobbying members of the Virginia Municipal League to ask the General Assembly to increase Medicaid spending.  The proposal of the Interfaith Center, while quite well intentioned, is at best foolhardy and will only lead to bankruptcy of the current system. 

Currently the commonwealth and federal government split Medicaid spending in Virginia on a 50-50 percent basis, meaning that any increase in spending would be picked up by the federal government.  If passed as is, in the form that the Interfaith Center would like to see, the increased cost to Virginia alone over the two-year period of the budget would be approximately $953 million. Think on that number. 

Currently as it stands, Medicaid is the second largest single expenditure of the biannual state budget, occupying in excess of 21 percent of the state revenue.  An extra $953 million over each two-year period would bankrupt the system, and force the powers that be in Richmond to either pass a massive tax hike, or start rationing care – in the European tradition.  Something no serious person should want to see occur.

Medicaid expansion has been a disaster everywhere it is tried.  Early in his first term, Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed into law a similar Medicaid expansion, which has led to a biannual increase of $4.2 billion. Washington state had a biannual increase of $2.3 billion.  Other states have had similar results.  Kentucky tried something similar.  The end result was a near bankruptcy of the system, and only the third Republican governor of Kentucky since World War II. 

Federal law requires that Washington pay a minimum of half of the Medicaid bills of each of the 50 states. However, the federal government has racked up nearly $20 trillion in debt, nearly 50 percent of this debt can be credited to the Obama administration.  Such massive federal entitlement spending cannot be sustained forever, at either the federal, state or local level.  If we do not get a grip on our spending soon, the U.S. will end up in the same place as Greece. 

People often think that all Medicaid/Medicare spending goes only to hospitalization and doctors visits. This is not correct. Each year, your tax dollars go toward outrageous expenses.  Just last week, one of our taxi drivers took a Medicaid recipient from his residence South Arlington to a weight loss center in Staunton.  The cab took the passenger to his destination, waited for three to four hours, and then transported him back to South Arlington.  All of this was done on your dime.  (For the record, local code requires a taxicab company to transport any orderly passenger to his destination, provided the passenger is not breaking the law – so don’t blame the cab company). 

This costs you, the Virginia taxpayer, approximately $850.  We are not talking about an indigent here, and you and I both know that Arlington and/or Northern Virginia have excellent weight loss centers. This occurs in every major locale on a daily basis.  Trips from Northern Virginia to the state correctional facility in Petersburg to have a welfare recipient see her imprisoned baby daddy are also part of the Medicaid program, of which you are paying the cost. 

There is no doubt that some serious changes need to be made to the current system.  People are suffering. I have personal friends who have family members in dire straits, and who need assistance desperately.  My heart goes out to them.  But tossing more money at the problem is what got us into this mess in the first place.  Tossing more money at the problem will only lead to more bureaucracy and higher taxes and a large crash of the Medicaid system at the end of the day.

John Massoud, of Strasburg, is chair of the 6th Magisterial District GOP and does media relations for the Shenandoah Valley Constitutional Conservatives. He is vice president and an owner of two fleets of taxicabs in Northern Virginia and has been working with Medicaid passengers for nearly 30 years.