Tag Archives: Medicaid

An Obama Crony Lands a $100 Million Obamacare Waiver

by Whitney Pitcher

Today, Crain’s Chicago Business reports that yet another one of President Obama’s cronies received an Obamacare waiver:

 Cook County hit a $100 million jackpot over the weekend.

In a little noticed but crucial decision announced Friday night, the federal government signed off on a request by county board President Toni Preckwinkle to enroll 114,000 low-income people a year early in the Medicaid program.

For the county, the decision is worth as much as $100 million a year, since its network of hospitals and health clinics already is serving most of the patients free of charge. The tab now will be picked up by federal taxpayers under a provision of Obamacare, rather than by Cook County taxpayers alone.

Ms. Preckwinkle isn’t only the Cook County board President (and Lady Liberty in the picture above). She is also an Obama mentor who infamously said that President Reagan could “rot in hell” for making “drug use political”, as Tony Lee reported at Breitbart.com this past summer:

 Preckwinkle was discussing drug policy and how she felt drug treatment should not be a part of the criminal justice system. She was defending the decision by Chicago city officials to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana. And her comments were in reference to Reagan’s “war on drugs,” which President Richard Nixon started. During Reagan’s tenure, First Lady Nancy Reagan started the “Just Say No” campaign against drugs.

Preckwinkle made those comments in downstate Illinois. Reagan was born in Tampico, Illinois.

Preckwinkle helped Obama challenge the signatures of his primary opponents to run unopposed in his 1996 state senate race. Obama often reminisces about this race as a heroic, Rudy-esque foray into politics in which he overcame all odds to win.

Preckwinkle also supported Barack Obama in his failed primary run against sitting Congressman Bobby Rush in 2000, his 2004 US Senate run and his 2008 presidential run. As The New Yorker stated in a 2008 article, Preckwinkle was the one who suggested Obama begin attending Jeremiah Wright’s church:

On issue after issue, Preckwinkle presented Obama as someone who thrived in the world of Chicago politics. She suggested that Obama joined Jeremiah Wright’s Trinity United Church of Christ for political reasons. “It’s a church that would provide you with lots of social connections and prominent parishioners,” she said. “It’s a good place for a politician to be a member.” Preckwinkle was unsparing on the subject of the Chicago real-estate developer Antoin (Tony) Rezko, a friend of Obama’s and one of his top fund-raisers, who was recently convicted of fraud, bribery, and money laundering: “Who you take money from is a reflection of your knowledge at the time and your principles.” As we talked, it became increasingly clear that loyalty was the issue that drove Preckwinkle’s current view of her onetime protégé. “I don’t think you should forget who your friends are,” she said.

Beyond the cronyism, this “waiver” only serves to place the people of the greater Chicago area and Illinois further underwater fiscally. Most businesses, states, and areas who have sought an Obamacare waiver had done so to delay the implementation of Obamacare. Preckwinkle’s request for a waiver was to begin Medicaid expansion in Cook County early, and subsequently fill a budget gap for Cook County. This is normal for Illinois politicians who often seek federal dollars to cover their own budgetary failures.With Medicaid’s hybrid of federal and state funding, the solicitation of federal dollars has also led to state and local budgetary increases,and, of course, fiscal problems A recent report on state budgets in crisis notes that one of the things that has put Illinois in such great financial peril is Medicaid:

Illinois’ other structural problem is Medicaid. In FY 2010, Medicaid accounted for 23 percent of the state’s budget and that figure is going to grow under the Affordable Care Act. Under the best case scenario Obamacare will only raise spending 3.3 percent above the current baseline by 2019. However other scenarios suggest the increase could be as much as 20 percent by 2020.

Rather than address these structural problems, Illinois has resorted to heavy borrowing to cover its obligations. As a result, per capita debt in Illinois is the second highest in the nation at nearly $10,000 (NY is number one). And largely because of this high level of debt, Illinois’ bond rating is the worst in the nation. Moody’s downgraded the state most recently in January of 2012.

In fact, during FY2012, Medicaid was underfunded by $2.1 billion. With the growing pool of patients and a shrinking number of doctors, Obamacare has only proven itself to be nothing more than a politician promising the entire country a new car, but only giving them a set of keys. Real healthcare reform is not expanding insurance while shrinking care and paying back your cronies. Real fiscal reform is not seeking federal dollars as a stopgap measure for a county and state budget drowning in debt.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Obamacare’s Sobering Vocabulary Lesson

by Whitney Pitcher

Over the last three years, America has been embattled in a health care reform debate, ranging from the legislative debates to the townhalls and Tea Parties and later on to the actual vote and bill signage and Supreme Court decision. In reality though, we were never really discussing health care reform; we were discussing health insurance reform. The difference is huge and will become more and more evident as time progresses. More Americans may receive health insurance coverage as Obamacare is implemented, but that doesn’t mean that they will receive health care. We need to look no further than Medicaid to see the failures when government gets involved in health insurance and health care. Medicaid has been in place for nearly fifty years, but has the potential to greatly expand in states that choose to do so. However, Medicaid is also illustrative of how health care reform is a complete misnomer.

The New York Times finally highlighted the burgeoning doctors’ shortage on Sunday. Even prior to Obamacare’s passage, a doctors’ shortage was anticipated. However, the shortage of doctors more than doubles with the implementation of Obamacare. What do doctors’ shortages do? As the NYT story notes of current doctors shortages (emphasis added):

Experts describe a doctor shortage as an “invisible problem.” Patients still get care, but the process is often slow and difficult. In Riverside, it has left residents driving long distances to doctors, languishing on waiting lists, overusing emergency rooms and even forgoing care.

Yes, the New York Times would follow up a sentence that notes patients would receive care by noting that the doctors’ shortage would influence them to forego care hoping that their readers would miss their attempt at nuance. Medicaid, though, adds an additionally wrench in the physician shortage, as the NYT goes on to say:

Moreover, across the country, fewer than half of primary care clinicians were accepting new Medicaid patients as of 2008, making it hard for the poor to find care even when they are eligible for Medicaid. The expansion of Medicaid accounts for more than one-third of the overall growth in coverage in President Obama’s health care law.

If there is already of shortage of doctors and  Medicaid patients are hard pressed to find a physician that will take them as a patient, where is the reform of health care? It’s almost as if the government has offered to give the entire country their own car, but only gave everyone a set of keys. One of the main reasons that doctors aren’t accepting new Medicaid patients is due to reimbursement rates, which Obamacare is supposed to increase. However, while President Obama was attempting to offset the financial aspect of care on the backs of the taxpayers through projected reimbursement increases, he neglected to address tort reform, which would have decreased medical malpractice insurance for doctors, while only negatively affecting ambulance chasers and the Democratic politicians to whom they donate, not the taxpayers.

Since Medicaid is partial state funded, there is a state specific aspect of this too. Take Illinois for example, where in FY2012, Medicaid was underfunded by $2.1 billion dollars . Additionally, even if funding stayed flat as Governor Quinn projects, payment to providers is projected to average nearly a year’s delay by FY15. The state is already $8 billion behind on their bills overall, prompting the state comptroller to provide emergency funding to a mental health facility reliant on Medicaid funding to prevent the agency from closing its doors.  The expansion of Medicaid as Obamacare is implemented is supposed to make matters worse. Although the Supreme Court decision allows the states to decide whether or not they are going to expand Medicaid, true to form, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has already indicated he will. With a growing doctors shortage, a limited number of doctors accepting Medicaid, and the potential for facilities to close due to delayed payment, it would be a miracle if a Medicaid patient even got into the doctor!

Let’s pretend though that a new Medicaid patient was able to get into the doctor, but they have a rare illness or are extremely sick and require a great deal of medications. Well, Illinois Medicaid has stated that they now will limit patients to 4 brand name drugs. This comes after last year, when Illinois cut availability of brand name psychiatric drugs. Fifteen other states have limits on brand name prescriptions as well. To be sure, there are a great deal of generic medications, but there are still situations where there are no generics available. Essentially, this is drug rationing.The implementation of Obamacare, which is predicted to double the number of Medicaid recipients in Illinois over the next ten years, will only exacerbate the problems already in place.

Obamacare may end up technically providing some form of “health insurance” to the majority of Americans. However, if past is prologue when it comes to government’s role in medicine, this will not be legitimate health care reform, as people who now may not have health insurance or health care may inevitably end up with health insurance, but with delayed or non-existent care and limits on what medication they may receive.Of course, this is not what was promised by President Obama. Julia may get her free birth control, but she will likely have a heck of time scheduling an appointment for a doctor to prescribe it for her. Moreover, this is being done on the backs of the American taxpayer, or in the case of Illinois, the $2.1 billion Medicaid underfunding  came on the heels of a 67% state income tax increase and a more than 40% increase in state corporate taxes. This is the kind of newspeak that has become commonplace in the Obama administration, but hopefully proponents of government intervention in medicine will learn a sobering lesson. Health care and health insurance are not synonymous.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized