Medicaid hypocrisy 2.0, or the art of not giving credit where it's due

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John O'Connor
John O'Connor

These days, many Republican governors find themselves struggling with a thorny Medicaid challenge.

Provisions in the Affordable Care Act have set aside billions of new Medicaid dollars that can be used to improve nursing home and other health-related services. But the law is so tied to Democrats that it is generally referred to as Obamacare.

And if you happen to be a Republican governor who has spent the past few years criticizing the law, it would probably be bad form to chug water you've been insisting is non-potable. In fact, you might even run the risk of being branded as, well, a B.S. artist.

But that Medicaid money is there for the taking. And your state sure can use it.

Most people would say GOP governors have two options. One is to take the high political ground and reject these Democrat-affiliated Medicaid funds. The second is to accept the dollars, along with the tacit admission that the other side helped fix a problem. But then again, most people don't think like savvy politicians. If you were a savvy politician, you'd probably want to develop an alternative option that lets you share the wealth, but not the credit.

And if you are wondering who might be able to pull off this sort f trick, look no further than Mike Pence. As a member of the House of Representatives, Pence was a fierce and frequent critic of the ACA.

But as they say, times change. These days, Pence is the governor of Indiana. And lo and behold, he is now asking the federal government for some of that same dirty ACA-generated money. But he's not going the standard route. Instead, he wants to get the cash through a Medicaid “waiver.” Never mind that the waiver's changes are at best cosmetic. At least he can call the request non-Obamaesque.

While Pence may be an egregious example of what might be called wanting to have his cake and eat it too, he is hardly alone. Republicans executives in several other states — including Pennsylvania, Utah and Wisconsin — are also employing this guilty pleasure, which amounts to putting new wine in newer bottles.

Now before you accuse me of being a Liberal apologist or worse, please read the next sentence. If the situation were reversed, Democratic Governors would be equally shameless. It just so happens to be politicians from the GOP side of the ledger performing the Medicaid jujitsu this time.

President Ronald Reagan famously said “There is no limit to the amount of good you can do if you don't care who gets the credit.” It appears some of his political descendants have adopted a slightly modified mantra: “There is no limit to the amount of good you can do as long as you make sure the other side doesn't get any credit.”


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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.