On Thursday, Senate Republicans are finally leaving their goblin cave to release a draft of their secret health care bill. A discussion draft was obtained by the Washington Post ahead of the release. At one point, it was believed that the Senate bill would not cut Medicaid spending as harshly as the House bill, which gouges the program by $880 billion. But according to the Post, while the Senate proposal phases out Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion more gradually, long-term cuts to the program are are deeper. So much for the “moderate” Senate!
One line that some Republicans are using to justify cuts to Medicaid is highly misleading. On Wednesday, Louisiana Senator John Kennedy told the New York Times that the Medicaid cuts were an extremely attractive aspect of the bill for him because “in my state we are now spending 47 percent of our budget on Medicaid. That’s up from 23 percent in 2008. It’s crowding out money for universities and roads and public safety and coastal restoration, and it just keeps climbing.”
While it’s true that Medicaid takes up nearly half of Louisiana’s state budget, what Kennedy declines to note is that a majority of that money comes from the federal government. After Louisiana’s governor accepted Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion last year, federal funding for the program went up from $5.9 billion to $8.3 billion. The Times-Picayune reports: “In total, around 74 percent of Louisiana’s Medicaid program is funded with federal dollars. This means that reducing the Medicaid program doesn’t necessarily produce savings that could be shifted to other state priorities such as higher education, the TOPS scholarship program, or road construction.”
What it would mean is kicking off the 408,000 Louisianans who have already gained health insurance through the expansion and the 200,000 more who are projected to enroll next year. One estimate projects the total number of Louisianans who will be insured through Medicaid to be 1.7 million by next year, or one in three, up from 1 million in 2008.
If we were to be very charitable to Republicans like Kennedy, we would note that Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion eventually phases down federal funding to 90 percent by 2020, meaning that states will have to pick up a bit more of the tab. But Kennedy is trying to make the case that his state’s Medicaid spending is crowding out funding for other programs now. That is simply not the case.