Liberal lemmings are taking our health care system over a cliff

Lemmings are small animals that periodically experience rapid growth in population and multiply heavily when food is plentiful. Frequently, in search of more land on which to scramble about, they plunge to their doom over cliffs, as their single-minded purpose overwhelms what little sense they seem to possess. The difference between Norwegian lemmings and Washington “progressive” politicians is, well, nothing, really.

This week the Democrats passed a Senate version of a health care bill so unpopular that even the Democrats go-to Republican gal in the Senate, Olympia Snowe of Maine — who so embodies the characteristics of a RINO (Republican in name only) that she should be in the Smithsonian — could not vote for it.

The fact they chose to push this legislation through in the face of 2-to-1 public opposition and a president with the fastest-dropping poll numbers in modern time, shows a preoccupation with an imaginary promised land of political riches that must lead to a dramatic fall.

This laser focus on self-aggrandizement and its accompanying auction of federal gifts in return for votes has so fascinated the citizenry and media many have forgotten to consider the impact of this legislation on the little people — you know, the states.

Both the House and Senate versions of this bill embody tremendous expansions in Medicaid. This tactic carries a heavy price tag to the individual states, as present federal law already requires them to cover certain populations of adults and children. Under the less-generous Senate version of the health care bill, Medicaid would now be required to cover people with an income up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level, or roughly $29,260 for a family of four. The bill also provides for sliding-scale subsidies for families that earn between 133 percent and 400 percent of the poverty level to buy coverage at newly created health insurance exchanges.

All this when Medicaid itself had become a problem child for state budgets long before this recent health care bill made its ascension. pointed out in 2006 that Medicaid had become the nation’s largest health carrier with 59 million insured. This was before the expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, known as SCHIP, in February. That added 4 million enrollees and $33 billion dollars to the federal insurance program. Medicaid also paid for 37 percent of all the births in the United States.

Moreover, this insurance plan run by the government is hardly a money saver, because even at its relatively modest rates of reimbursement, its cost still increased at 6 percent or more a year, twice the rate of inflation.

These increases have threatened to swamp many state budgets, and Colorado is certainly no exception. In fiscal year 2007, reported Colorado spending $2.9 billion on Medicaid payments, of which 50 percent was paid by the state.

Expansion of Medicaid cannot help but lead to serious budget problems for states like Colorado, which already is quaking on the edge of becoming a first-class fiscal mess. Gov. Bill Ritter recently proposed helping to solve the state budget shortfall by cutting the rate the state pays to physicians for seeing Medicaid patients by 2 percent. One wonders how this will enhance the conundrum of expanded Medicare eligibility and patients trying to find doctors to treat them at what will surely be an ever-decreasing level of compensation.

In October, columnist Deroy Murdock wondered how Ritter Senate appointee, Michael Bennett, could defend legislation that would boost Colorado’s Medicaid population 70 percent. These figures were based on the bill originally offered by Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, and they were worked into the calculus of the latest Senate version of the bill.

The Senate and House efforts do much to expand Medicaid by breaking new ground for Medicaid eligibility, such as including young individuals without children into the plan. This action will pull young workers, just starting out at the lower end of the pay scale, with no serious medical problems, out of private insurance risk pools and into the government option — causing the remaining collection of privately insured to see raises in their premiums.

The elderly, who are unlikely to be able to afford the enhanced insurance premiums these requirements will create, will be rewarded with a $480 billion cut to Medicare. Much of that will come in the Medicare Advantage program.

It’s been found that lemming populations fluctuate every four years before mysteriously plunging to near extinction. They may share even more with their Washington counterparts than I thought.


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