Medicaid Expansion Leaves Thousands Waiting in Line

By Gloria Taylor

A November report from Illinois Policy, surveying data from the Illinois Department of Human Services, highlights the serious consequences of federal bureaucracy getting entangled in health care. Since the Illinois General Assembly voted to expand Medicaid in 2013, 752 Illinoisans have died waiting for health care due on a Medicaid waiting list.

In an effort to boost healthcare coverage, the federal government offered to pick up the tab for states that expanded Medicaid eligibility past historical levels in Obamacare. Prior to Obamacare, Medicaid provided health care as a safety net for poor Americans limited mostly to pregnant women, children, and the disabled. However, in typical big government fashion, Obamacare created a whole new class eligibility for Medicaid benefits–any able bodied adult ages 19-64 with an income below 138 percent of the federal poverty level. And you can only imagine the results.

Obamacare’s redefinition of the size and scope of Medicaid’s services has taken the program past an already flawed safety net to yet another instrument of government dependence. Medicaid is now the largest piece of the pie when it comes to state budgets and the spending isn’t slowing down. While the federal government currently foots the entire bill for expansion costs, eventually its share will decrease and states will have to cut the check as enrollment and costs continue to grow. In 2015, Medicaid spending alone broke $500 billion and state after state continues to run billions over budget on the program. Doctors get the short end of the stick when the government comes back to reimburse them and the payments are lower than private insurance plans.

The federal government’s inability to adequately compensate doctors and hospitals adds to Medicaid’s failure to provide access to quality care. Not only have many doctors refused to even accept new Medicaid patients, studies show that the Medicaid patients have had worse medical outcomes than their privately insured counterparts. But it’s the expansion that has hung the people the program originally tried to protect out to dry. Now Medicaid covers just as many able bodied adults as children.

While hundreds have died in Illinois waiting for care, thousands more are on waiting list for urgent care. The same is true in states across the country. Resources have been shifting to enrolling millions more people, while thousands of continued to get lost in the every growing healthcare bureaucracy.

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