Archive for April 9th, 2015

by William Skink

James Conner, at Flathead Memo, is one of the few people writing about the actual reality of Medicaid expansion in Montana. He should be commended. And Montana Democrats should listen.

As it stands, the online Twitter hashtag #70000cantwait has become disingenuous. Politicians using this hashtag should stop using it, because the reality makes the use of it deceitful. Regardless of what happens today, tens of thousands of Montanans will continue to wait, and over a hundred thousand Montanans will be essentially taxed to cover 45,000 of the 70,000. From the link:

The Senate’s version of SB-405 provides health insurance for up to 45,000 of the 70,000 or so thought to be eligible for expanded Medicaid. It also slaps a de facto two percent income tax on all Medicaid recipients, including the poorest of the poor. It’s a mean spirited, teach the poor a lesson, piece of legislation. See my 18 March and 19 March posts for more details.

I commend the determination of the legislators who blasted the bill out of committee. I condemn the legislation into which they breathed new life. It violates the principle of first, do no harm.

It’s easy to focus on the disgusting antics of the Tea Party over this issue. The last few days have shown just how hard these soulless ideologues are willing to work to hurt poor people and kill job creation in Montana. It’s been dumbfounding to watch how this has all played out.

That said, if SB-405 passes today—and that’s a big IF—the de facto tax will have as-of-yet unknown consequences for the poorest in our state. Those consequences can then be used down the line by conservatives as proof that the expansion wasn’t worth it in the first place. And the half that won’t be covered, along with the 160,000+ people who will be taxed, will mean roughly 200,000 Montanans will be left behind and/or adversely affected by this “compromise” that Conner explains isn’t really a compromise at all.

Is it worth it?

While some Democrats are enjoying the media attention and retweeting accolades, health workers and social service providers should prepare for 2 more years of exacerbated struggle. I fear the situation on the ground won’t noticeably improve, and in some instances, may even worsen. 2% may not sound like a big number to most people, but for those barely hanging on, it could be hugely significant.

Knowing this reality, it’s difficult to be optimistic about the value of winning this political fight. I guess time will tell.

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