Idaho Examiner -
Idaho Rep. Tom Loertscher

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Wal-Mart and Medicaid?

By Representative Tom Loertscher (R. Bone, Idaho)

Two recent articles in the Idaho Statesman about Medicaid illustrate the players in this ongoing mess pointing the finger of blame at everyone but themselves. As if Wal-Mart and other such businesses were the sole cause of the expansion in the programs, Speaker of the House Bruce Newcomb eagerly wants to place the blame at Wal-Mart’s feet. Surprisingly, Newcomb fails to mention illegal immigrants many of whom work in his vocation, agriculture. Then we received the report from the Department of Health and Welfare that more than one fourth of the population of this great State is a partaker in these programs, and to add insult to out of control costs, we have DHW Director Karl Kurtz attempting to assure us that it’s really OK because Medicaid is really an economic development tool bringing jobs to Idahoans. This is hardly the talk you would expect from “conservative Idaho” on either count.

A reality check might be helpful especially when it comes to finding someone to blame. I was always taught that whenever you point a finger of blame at someone else there are at least three fingers pointing back at you. And before we blame someone else, legislators in particular should look in the mirror to find the culprit. Over the years the legislature has been all too willing to pass into law new programs and benefits under Medicaid. Even in the past legislative session with the “outrage” expressed during the annual talk-a-thon about out of control cost increases, new expansions were put in place. And so it has been over the years. The number of Federally required programs under Medicaid pales in comparison to the optional programs adopted by the legislature and the Governors of this state. To add insult to injury the legislature and the governors’ office have sanctioned advertising to attract new recipients to their programs. To blame Wal-Mart or any other business for these huge cost increases is simply a smoke screen for the elected officials who voted for the program expansions. Still ringing in my ears is the debate in the House, as the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) was put in place and expanded. It gives little satisfaction to be right at this point when the predicted outcome has been for companies to not provide coverage when the state has so boldly stepped in. And after all is this not America, a society in which citizens, be they private or corporate, will do what they think is in their best interest especially when they break no laws in doing so?

After having voted for most if not all of these expansions the Speaker now wants to commission a study to see if Wal-Mart and other corporate citizens may be encouraging their employees to utilize Medicaid programs they qualify for, the same programs the Department, trade unions, and others have advertised throughout the state. Whatever the outcome of the Speaker’s efforts I don’t think you can have it both ways. You can’t vote for and pass into law Health and Welfare expansions and advertise free programs without an explosive increase in costs.

The economics classes I took listed government as a consumer of resources and not a producer. The very idea that some Health and Welfare program is providing great economic growth is just contrary to the facts. There is not one dollar that is spent in Medicaid that was not taken from someone else. My economics classes also taught that every time someone receives something without paying for it, someone will pay for it without receiving it. Speaker Newcomb, and Director Kurtz want you to see the smoke and not the facts. The real consequence is that there are many who try to pay their own insurance and medical costs, and in addition have to pay for someone else’s “free” first dollar coverage thanks to their elected officials. Just how does that affect these tax payers’ personal economy?

In the US we have created in our people, by way of our taxing and other policies, the expectation of entitlement to these programs. Is it any wonder that they continue to grow so rapidly, after all because we have paid into the system, or because we are disadvantaged, or a victim, are we not entitled to these programs? Now I don’t want to sound like a cold hearted ogre and I don’t mean to say that these programs are not well meaning. The more important thing to realize is that if we do not stop the explosive growth, the programs are simply unsustainable. While the politicians spend other peoples money to provide these benefits they are creating a sub-culture wherein personal responsibility is a thing of the past. Simply stated we are becoming more dependent on government for everything. We are rapidly becoming the seagulls feeding at the landfills of government programs. Let the annual talk-a-thon on explosive Medicaid growth begin.