The pandemic is winding down as the latest variants of Omicron cause less serious, though more widespread, disease. Many are sick, but few are hospitalized and even fewer are dying. The emergency situation declared two years ago has now evolved into an endemic situation, much like the seasonal flu. Remember back to three years ago when seasonal flu only meant the elderly and immunocompromised got shots and no one wore masks? Life should be returning to a similar situation – but it won’t. The reason is politics.
The latest example of this is Medicaid. Medicaid is suffering from long Covid symptoms – and it won’t get better until politicians end the state of emergency. The Wall Street Journal editorial board tells us Congress temporarily boosted the federal government’s Medicaid contribution in one of its 2020 Covid-aid bills. As a condition to receive the extra money, states can’t disenroll Medicaid beneficiaries who become ineligible – except if they die, opt out, or leave the state. No matter how much their financial situation improves, they remain eligible for Medicaid as long as there is an official Public Health Emergency.
This situation is sure to remain the same until at least mid-July, under the current regulations, but the Biden Administration has already declared they intend to extend the emergency and has promised to give states 60 days notice before any plans to terminate. That means it might be October at the earliest before this emergency ends. By then, according to an estimate from the Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA), “states will have an estimated 98 million Medicaid enrollees, including as many as 23 million people no longer eligible.” (That’s nearly one in three Americans on Medicaid.)
Medicaid is supposed to be a healthcare system for low-income Americans who cannot afford their own private insurance. The enrollment of Medicaid has skyrocketed ever since ObamaCare was instituted in 2014 when eligibility criteria were expanded. Now, with this Covid Public Health Emergency declaration, the rolls of Medicaid continue to escalate, regardless of financial prosperity. This is clearly just another way the left wants to bring more and more Americans under the umbrella of government-controlled healthcare. It’s a back-door to socialized medicine. This is just another example of a government handout that was intended to be temporary, but now the Democrats want to make permanent. (see Making ObamaCare Temporary Subsidies Permanent)
Congress can make Medicaid eligibility rules permanent if it can find the votes, and the White House is free to argue for that. But using an emergency situation as an excuse interminably undermines our democracy and the credibility of our government.
WSJ says, “As with other makeshift pandemic assistance, such as the eviction moratorium, the media will focus on hardship cases. But the emergency has to stop sometime, and an economy with a 3.6% jobless rate is a good time to do it. The Labor Department also said this week there were 11.4 million job openings in April, with only about half that many available workers.”
What is the cost of this expanded Medicaid to the taxpayers?
By October, “ineligible enrollees will cost taxpayers nearly $16 billion per month,” the FGA predicts, “with states picking up nearly $6 billion of those costs when the public health emergency ends.” State officials would be wise to think through what to do next, and remember that every dollar spent on an ineligible Medicaid beneficiary is a dollar that’s not spent on other priorities, including those who need help the most.
Between this expanded eligibility for Medicaid, and the expanded subsidies for ObamaCare, the government is slowly but surely enticing more Americans into government-controlled healthcare. That’s been the plan by progressives for a very long time, whether Congress approves it or not.