That state legislator Fred Thomas (R-TEA Ravalli County) is outraged about Obamacare is not news to anyone.
What’s ridiculous is that the problem he’s so worked up about is one of his own creation. Instead of directing his outrage at the television cameras, he should look in the mirror and ask himself why he insisted on blocking the Medicaid expansion–health coverage for 50,000 working poor Montanans.
In an interim committee of the Montana Legislature last week, Thomas said he was upset about a family who earns under 100% of the federal poverty level. This family, a legislative staff report found, was too poor to qualify for a subsidized plan on the insurance marketplace and would have to pay full price–and a full price plan would cost them 40% more than a health plan without the standards that the health care reform law requires be met.
The scenario was featured in a report by the Legislative Auditor, undertaken on behalf of Thomas himself. During the committee meeting, Thomas waived the report in front of the television cameras, spouting vitriol about the havoc Obamacare has wrought upon this family.
Problem is, this family’s plight isn’t the fault of the Affordable Care Act, this problem was created by the Montana Legislature.
The only reason this family is in that situation is because Rep. Fred Thomas and his fellow TEA Partiers refused federal funds to pay for health coverage for the working poor. The reason that there are now some 50,000 people in Montana who are too poor to qualify for health insurance subsidies through Obamacare is that they were supposed to be eligible for health coverage for Medicaid. That is, until the Supreme Court ruled that states could choose the reject the federal funding to pay for health care for their own working poor citizens.
The new health care reform law requires that nearly all of the costs of the Medicaid expansion (100 percent for the first three years, phasing down to 90 percent in 2020 and all subsequent years) will be paid for by the federal government. The Affordable Care Act didn’t include subsidized insurance plans for people whose jobs paid less than 100% of the poverty level because Obamacare made them eligible for Medicaid. But Montana legislators thought that taking a vote to spite President Obama was more important than health care for the working poor, and so they lined up against the federal dollars, and many families will be forced to go without.
Tip of the hat to Sen. Dick Barrett’s blog, which featured a post last week about how Fred Thomas lied about the findings of his own staff’s report. Sen. Barrett, a Democrat from Missoula, is also a retired professor of economics. Dr. Barrett’s blog is a great source of “commentaries on political, social and economic issues of interest to Montanans.” It’s well worth a read, and I’ve added it to the blogroll here.