BY: B. Keith Plunkett @Keithplunkett
Democrats have been flailing around looking for any and every reason to remain relevant in a Medicaid debate that, except for their obstructionism in the Mississippi House, passed them by weeks ago.
House Democrat leader Rep. Bobby Moak’s latest attempts, with the help of long time Representative Cecil Brown, has been to paint Medicaid expansion as a jobs program. It’s the latest argument in an ever-changing and undisciplined message from Democrats. Before, it was about rural hospitals closing due to the loss of federal money, and before that it was about hospitals losing their good credit ratings. Both of the latter arguments have been disproven. The argument as it relates to job creation is, at best, speculative.
Besides attempts during the legislative session to organize rallies in conjunction with the Mississippi Hospital Association to support expansion of the program–a strategy that did little more than trot out examples of the very reason the Medicaid program is in the terrible shape it is in–there has been nothing consistent about the Democrats message. Chairman of the Democrat Party Rickey Cole hasn’t been seen publicly commenting on it in over a month.
But, never fear. The cavalry is coming.
Two analysis articles written by the Associated Press and another by the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal are attempting to give Dems a hand in rewriting the script with a “one-two punch”.
The AP analysis attempts to recognize a tremor in the political steadiness of Republicans. The Daily Journal editorial tries to help the Democrats refocus the argument on the wretched plight of the impoverished masses.
Back in 2006, the AP welcomed a new director who made it perfectly clear that in order to compete, the news organization would have to be more of an advocate for causes. This latest article appears to fit well within that organizational reboot.
In short, the AP analysis tries its dead-level best to show that Governor Phil Bryant’s latest comments, that he would attempt to run the Medicaid program, is a crack in the Republican foundations, an example of “veering from the script.”
The AP analysis said:
Beyond the cloudy legality of the Republican’s claim, it turns away from the clear-as-glass GOP strategy of blaming Democrats for voting against the program and causing a calamity where 640,000 Mississippians wouldn’t have health care coverage come July 1.
Those GOP positions, repeated over the last two months, appeared aimed at ratcheting up pressure on members of the House Democratic minority. The idea is that some would give in and vote to reauthorize the state-federal health insurance program for the poor without insisting on expanding Medicaid to cover additional people. The plan appeared to be to build the pressure into June and then for Bryant to call lawmakers back for a special session, with the threat of the program’s imminent collapse teetering over Democrats’ heads.
But if it’s Bryant’s position that he can keep Medicaid going even if the Legislature doesn’t act, why say it out loud? It’s likely to encourage some Democrats to keep fighting.
There’s a couple of problems with the AP’s attempt at encouraging the Democrats to continue this political game: Democrats DID vote against reauthorizing the program. And, this WILL be a calamity for the 641,194 needy Mississippians who now rely on Medicaid.
A precursory read of Governor Bryant’s comments show a man frustrated with those two facts, and one who cares about the elderly and disabled who the Democrats are willing to “toss out in the street.”
The man said he cares enough to do everything he can and that is a political weakness? Sorry, that boat doesn’t float.
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The Daily Journal editorial attempts to pick up the other side of the argument; that no one is speaking for the people who need Medicaid.
They write the following:
So far, little has been said about the consequences for the program’s 640,000 current clients.
Politics so far trumps patients – those 640,000 people who are primarily the disabled, poor pregnant women, poor children and the elderly.
The additional 300,000 who would be eligible under expanded coverage aren’t in the equation except as a footnote about uncompensated care provided by hospitals already hard-pressed to stay financially afloat.
That is a complete fabrication, and the Editorial Board at the Daily Journal knows it. The Governor’s office released a well-publicized list of the services that would end for Medicaid patients come July 1, and has clearly discussed with the media that the needs of those currently on the program should come first.
Finally, the Daily Journal pushes another fallacy on it’s readers. The opinion of the Editorial Board is that if it weren’t for the hard headedness of Gov. Bryant there COULD be a compromise in Mississippi along the lines of the Arkansas’ model.
In that instance, the Governor of Arkansas cut a deal with the US Dept. of Health and Human Services Director Kathleen Sebelius to take the Medicaid expansion money and apply it to private insurance through a state-run insurance exchange.
The Daily Journal Editorial board says:
Mississippi has a health insurance exchange constructed and ready to be implemented, but Gov. Bryant, in a disagreement with statewide elected Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney, refused to take the necessary steps, and the federal Department of Health and Human Services disallowed the exchange.
Chaney moved to create the state exchange on the premise that it would be better for the state to run its own exchange than to have the federal government do it for us.
There’s been no compelling argument to the contrary; Bryant’s decision was clearly political.
Again, that’s a load of crap.
There are plenty of compelling reasons not to have a state-based health exchange under ObamaCare, but the main one is the job-killing taxation that only comes with a state-based exchange. The IRS ruled that it could tax companies and implement the individual mandate regardless of whether there was a federal exchange or a state exchange. But, that is outside of the way ObamaCare was written and a lawsuit filed in Oklahoma last week is meant to get to the bottom of it.
In December of 2012, Commissioner Chaney heatedly debated some of these finer points with me on a statewide radio telling me I was wrong because “the IRS already ruled on that.”
But, the lawsuit clearly shows this is not settled, and much of the wheeling-and-dealing of the Obama Administration to arm twist states into expanding Medicaid may in fact turn out to be completely unenforceable and unworkable.
The ObamaCare law, and the Medicaid expansion that is a foundational piece of it’s implementation, is unsettled. Until the time that we can know for sure whether the federal government has the constitutional authority to cut DSH payments to hospitals, for example; or if the IRS rulings will stand up to the latest lawsuit over whether they now have carte-blanche authority to make law and tax individuals without prior approval of Congress, there simply is no reason to move ahead with this liberal experiment.
In the meantime, Mississippi Medicaid patients are about to lose services. That is the one thing Mississippi has control over right now, and where the focus of lawmakers should be.
About Keith: Keith Plunkett has worked on communications issues with a range of public officials from aldermen to Congressmen, and a variety of businesses, governmental agencies and non-profits. He serves or has served as a board member of several non-profit, civic and political organizations. Contact him by going to HorizonMediaMarketing.com or follow him on Twitter @Keithplunkett