State legislator Keith Regier, who once compared women to pregnant cattle and a fetus to an unfinished barn, has written an editorial in the Flathead Beacon that attempts to defend his party’s destruction of Access Health Montana, Bullock’s Medicaid expansion proposal to bring health care to 70,000 working poor Montanans which never made it out of the legislature.
Regier makes the Tea Party’s stock argument, which can be easily debunked.
He makes the claim that Medicaid will “worsen health outcomes” for the Montana poor. How? He points to supposed studies that show that Medicaid patients are more likely to have surgical complications, and are statistically more likely to die, than the population as a whole. Essentially, he is arguing that Medicaid makes you sick.
This conflates cause with correlation. Medicaid clients are indeed less healthy than the greater population, that is true. But it’s not that Medicaid makes you sick or that the care is somehow worse –its delivered by the same hospitals and doctors by the same standards. It’s because of the profile of the average Medicaid enrollee. They have likely come to the Medicaid program they are so sick that they have spent down their savings on their illness and are now eligible; or because they have been rejected by private insurance companies due to expensive pre-existing health conditions; or because they have lacked healthcare for many years until their condition has become difficult to treat. Also, the current Medicaid population is heavy on seniors, who have more health problems than the population on the whole.
In other words, Medicaid is a repository for many of the most ill and least treated citizens.
So it is true that Medicaid enrollees are among the least healthy. It is not caused by their enrolling in Medicaid. This is not a difficult thing to understand, even if Regier and his Tea Party have trouble understanding it.
There are some legislators who deserve mention for having tried their best. Democrats who worked hard to bring in the new Medicaid reforms, Dave Wanzenried and Christine Kauffman and Chuck Hunter, and even some Repubs like Ed Buttrey and Alan Olson, deserve some credit for trying to get it done. And many executive branch employees in the governor’s office and the health and human services department–and of course the citizens’ groups and their members who did the most work.
They all understood, if nothing else, that you should try to find room for $6 billion dollars for healthcare when the federal government offers it.