Governors Could Be Heroes

[imgbelt img=medicaid.png]Expanding Medicaid to cover more people will save lives — more than twice as many per year as would be saved by finding the cure for breast cancer. And the effect will be particularly strong in rural America.

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Yonder articles on rural life expectancy) will save more lives than predicted by the Harvard study, but will spend more money than some other states as they have more expanding to do. (For example, Nevada, Utah, Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Arkansas.)

There isn’t a whole lot of state money at stake, but the amount of new federal money being offered to the states over the decade is huge, about $800 billion. That is $950 billion if all the states expand Medicaid versus $150 billion if they do not. 

One reason the states get such a cheap ride is that they get to collect sales and income taxes on the economic activity created by the infusion of federal money.  Conversely, in states whose governors turn down Medicaid expansion, some hospitals and clinics that take care of poor people may go broke.  Remember, several of the money programs that kept these vital hospitals solvent have been shut down to pay for the Medicaid expansion.

Unfortunately, to this point this debate has been dominated by ideology and partisan principles.

But it’s not often that governors get to be bona fide life-saving heroes. This could be the time — if they can find the courage. 

Wayne Myers is a retired pediatrician and rural medical educator. He directed the federal Office of Rural Health Policy from 1998 through 2000, and was President of the National Rural Health Association in 2003. He and his wife, JoAnn, farm in rural Maine.

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