How many times does a legislator have to be wrong for his colleagues to look for someone else to follow?
The answer can be found in the Sagebrush Gospel of Matthew. “Because so many could not pay their medical bills, the state of Wyoming had been robbing Peter to pay Paul. Peter and Paul came to him and said, “Lord, if another member of the legislature misleads us, how often should we continue to follow his advice? As many as seven times?” Charlie Scott said to them, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.”
A hard count discloses Senator Scott used up his quota. Call the “Guinness Book of World Records” folks. Is it possible that one member of a legislative body could be wrong so many times on a single issue and still have a following?
It started in what seems a "long time ago in a galaxy far, far away." Initially Scott predicted Congress wouldn’t even pass the Affordable Care Act. They did. Then his defective crystal ball told him the 2010 elections would result in Republican majorities in both houses of Congress and they would repeal the law. That didn’t happen. Next he put all his eggs in another basket. Charlie foretold the Supreme Court would find the law unconstitutional. Nope. He then prophesied that Mitt Romney would become president and repeal the act. That didn’t work out so well either.
For three years, most Wyoming legislators have allowed Charlie Scott to lead the debate over Medicaid expansion. He was batting 0 for 4 before this debate began and hasn’t gotten a hit yet. Even the Colorado Rockies would have cut him by now. But then baseball is a team game. Legislators, on the other hand, choose whether to pull their own weight. Too many are willing to allow someone else to do the heavy lifting.
On this issue, they’ve acceded to Scott despite his consistently wrong calls.
This year is different. Governor Mead has finally decided to lead on Medicaid expansion. Republicans now must choose between the recommendations of their Governor and those of their erstwhile, consistently wrong senate colleague.
The choice should be easy. After all, a majority voted just last year to ask the Wyoming Department of Health experts to study the question and report their recommendation. That was an important step. You see, Medicaid is an enormously complex, often not completely mapped jungle of federal statutes, rules, and decision makers. Getting it right requires the skills of someone who is consistently correct.
WDH did what the legislature asked. They negotiated with the federal government and developed a recommendation. It’s a recommendation that meets the criteria established by the legislature last year, conforms to federal law, and will finally resolve this critical debate.
But, it isn’t good enough for Charlie Scott. He wants another “at-bat,” hoping to go 0 for 5.
In truth, Scott doesn’t want to expand Medicaid. He believes it is socialism. He is hell-bent on making a political statement out of the lives of those who do not have adequate healthcare because they have no health insurance.
His tactics have changed. Instead of fighting expansion head-on, Scott is asking his colleagues to ignore the Health Department experts and follow him once again. As the scripture says, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.”
What Charlie won’t tell the legislature is what the experts are saying. Charlie Scott’s “alternative-universe” bill will never be approved by the federal government. Charlie knows that. His scheme is to mislead his colleagues one more time and get them to pass his proposal. Then he can blame the feds when they determine it does not meet the requirements of federal law.
The 18,000 uninsured and the Wyoming hospitals that are losing tens-of-millions each year providing uncompensated care are hoping the legislators who represent them believe in what George W. Bush once said. “Fool me once, shame on - shame on you. Fool me - you can't get fooled again.”