Please take a moment to ready this story out of Pennsylvania: Study: Many Will Die if Medicaid is Not Expanded. As part of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), an expansion of Medicaid was intended. Medicaid essentially is the joint federal-state program to provide health insurance to low income individuals and families. The federal government strongly encouraged this expansion by the states, by offering to pay for that expansion for many years. Unfortunately, the US Supreme Court-in upholding the constitutionality of the bulk of Obamacare-did strike down this Medicaid expansion. The Supreme Court decision left it up to the state’s themselves to decide whether to expand Medicaid for their residents or not.
In many Republican-led states, the decision was made to not expand Medicaid. As seen in this article, Pennsylvania was a state that declined to expand. Wisconsin, with Republican Governor Scott Walker, also decided not to provide this expanded Medicaid coverage to the the state’s low income individiduals. (Check out the story here and here.)
Now comes news that failure to expand Medicaid may actually result in increased deaths among the affected population. The failure to have this expanded coverage, according to the study examining Pennsylvanis, will result in thousands of deaths due to individuals foregoing necessary medication, medical treatment, and preventative screening. Additionally, the expansion failure will result in “catastrophic medical expenses and tens of thousands of cases of untreated depression, diabetes and missed screening tests.” This is a truly scary scenario-and an avoidable one.
In Wisconsin, Gov. Walker is suggesting that these individuals can now obtain health insurance throught the federal-run exchanges. The real issue is whether these low-income individuals can truly afford the premiums and whether they actually qualify for the federal subsidies. These lower-income individuals were the one supposed to be covered by Medicaid expansion-not by the exchanges. Based on the Pennsylvania study, if these individuals are ineligible for Medicaid and cannot secure health insurance elsewhere, dire health consequences (or even death) loom as possibilities.