My granddad often told me, “There’s always free cheese in a mousetrap.” Those words have never rung more true than with Medicaid expansion. I can’t help but think Texas is being lured by “free” federal dollars into expanding Medicaid. Mousetraps don’t work out well for mice, and Medicaid expansion won’t work out well for Texans.
First, Texas can’t afford Medicaid expansion. Since 2000, the cost of Medicaid has tripled and now costs the state of Texas $11 billion per year, or approximately one out of every four dollars state government spends today. Even without expansion, Medicaid is expected to continue its rapid growth. By 2023, Medicaid will consume 37 percent of the state budget, costing more than $30 billion annually. That’s more than Texas spent on state courts, public safety, natural resources, general government, business and economic development, and higher education combined during the 2012 fiscal year. If Medicaid growth is left unrestrained it will literally squeeze judges, police and professors out of the Texas budget. The cost of Medicaid is already out-of-control. It makes no sense to expand it.
Second, federal matching funds may be a “good deal” to government bureaucrats, but they aren’t a good deal to Texas taxpayers. It’s like “free” money to them, but to hard-working Texans those dollars are anything but free since Texas taxpayers fund the federal government. Most Texans realize these funds, federal or state, come out of their own pockets.
Third, the massive fraud that permeates Medicaid would only be made worse by expansion. In the last 10 years, the Texas Attorney General has identified more than $770 million in suspected Medicaid fraud. During the 2012 fiscal year alone, the attorney general’s office opened 418 Medicaid fraud and abuse cases. Medicaid is not working. Fraud and spiraling costs are not hallmarks of a successful government program.
Medicaid is a fiscally unsustainable, fraud-ridden, broken, inefficient, and ineffective one-size-fits-all approach to health care. Instead of focusing on expanding a failed program of the past, the path to a brighter future lies with creating good-paying jobs in Texas. Job creation, not Medicaid expansion, is the most meaningful path to affordable health care.
Rarely is growing government the solution to Texas’ problems—health care is no different. Medicaid expansion is a bad deal for Texas and it should be rejected. Free cheese, I don’t think so!
(Craig Estes is a state senator from Wichita Falls, Texas.)