Saturday, January 12, 2013

Senator Charlie Scott vs the uninsured


Charlie Scott has served in the Wyoming legislature since 1979. He’s a bright fellow with Bachelors and Masters degrees from Harvard. Senator Scott earned a lot of respect around the Capitol over the years. He chairs the Labor, Health and Social Services Committee. Charlie has carved a niche for himself among legislators as an “expert” on health care.

It’s a shame he’s using that credibility to carry out a political vendetta against Obamacare to the detriment of his constituents. From the earliest days of the debate on healthcare reform, Charlie made a series of predictions about the demise of the Affordable Care Act. He’s been wrong every time.

First he predicted Congress wouldn’t pass the law. They did. He then predicted the 2010 elections would result in Republican majorities in both houses of Congress and they would repeal the law. When that didn’t happen, he bet the Supreme Court would find the law unconstitutional. They didn’t. He then prophesied that Mitt Romney would become president and repeal the act. That didn’t work out so well either.

His colleagues acceded to his predictions delaying and eventually abandoning the opportunity to create a health insurance exchange that had great potential to benefit small businesses and individuals throughout Wyoming. The result will be a federal takeover of this critical healthcare effort.

Legislators must now decide whether to expand Medicaid to cover the uninsured. Despite being 0 for 4, Senator Scott has another prognostication. What’s at stake if Charlie goes 0 for 5 is health insurance for 30,000 Wyoming people and multiple-millions of dollars in savings to Wyoming taxpayers.

Federal law requires the federal government to pay 100% of the costs until 2016. After that date the federal share gradually falls from 95% in 2017 to 90% in 2019 and beyond. Senator Scott’s latest prediction is the federal government won’t actually pay what they’ve promised. However, changing that formula requires Congress to pass a new law. Does anyone really believe the Republican-led House and 60 senators would go along? In nearly half-a-century of Medicaid, Congress never significantly altered the federal share.

In 34 years as a legislator, Scott has not made a similar prediction about any of the millions Wyoming accepts every year for everything from roads to education and other health programs. Yet, his crystal ball augurs not only will the feds fail to meet this obligation but that expansion will result in a “big tax increase in this state, and it’s going to threaten the other priorities of the state.” Au contraire Senator.

Wyoming hospitals lost $200 million in 2011 caring for the uninsured. Scott knows those costs are shifted to people with insurance making premiums higher and that nearly all of that could be covered under Medicaid expansion. Yet pleas of hospital officials to support the expansion fell on deaf ears. He is willing to put that money at risk for his latest bet.  Worse, Charlie is also willing to bet millions of your tax dollars as well.

The Mead administration acknowledges that unless Wyoming expands Medicaid, you’ll pay an additional 80 million dollars for mandatory extensions of the program. Those dollars and millions more can be saved if, and only if, Wyoming agrees to the optional expansion. Enough would be saved to pay that 80 million and save another 47 million in addition.

Actually there’s an opportunity to save tens of millions more if legislators carefully scrutinize all the programs that could be eliminated or reduced if Medicaid is expanded.

Charlie Scott despises Obamacare so much that he is willing to ask you to pay hundreds of millions in taxes you wouldn’t otherwise have to pay. That’s his position. Experience teaches that facts will not change Charlie’s mind. Now his colleagues will have to decide whether they are willing to go along with him on this bet. It would be an easier choice if Charlie were betting his own money. He’s not. Email him today at charles.scott@wyoleg.gov.

Tell Charlie, “Cut my taxes and insure the uninsured.”

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