Letter: Bumbling Bureaucrats

In the April 4th issue ("We Need a Bypass," Frank Talk), Frank Cagle argues that Republicans "rejected over $1 billion in federal funds" to show Obama "who's boss." That's not the case.

Mr. Cagle argues that Tennessee should expand TennCare, citing the fact that the feds have offered 100 percent funding for three years, then 90 percent thereafter. That is also not the case. The PPACA's offer—an undependable offer as we shall see—is only for the "newly eligible," a fraction of the people who would be added to TennCare's rolls. Obamacare pays a fraction, but Tennessee has to pay dearly for the rest.

To explain, only about 60 percent of those eligible for TennCare current actually use it. Many who currently qualify for TennCare are already covered by a job, a spouse, or other plan. Obamacare aggressively herds all of these people—and everyone else possible—into TennCare, increasing the program's rolls from the current 60 percent of eligibles to nearly 100 percent, an increase of two-thirds, at Tennessee's expense.

Tennessee currently spends nearly $3 billion per year on TennCare. Mr. Cagle suggests that if funds were wanting to expand TennCare that Gov. Haslam could "shift money around to accomplish it." No, he can't. Gov. Haslam can't make $2 billion a year appear out of thin air.

Worst of all, we're contemplating moving large numbers of people into a crowded poverty program, lured by the promise that it's free. But Mr. Cagle's premise that there will be free, dependable money to fund this is belied by the facts he himself supplies—the Obama administration has just cut Medicaid's indigent-care payments to hospitals. There's nothing to stop them from cutting or reneging on any or all of their other Medicaid promises in the future. To the contrary, it's virtually assured that they will—the feds do this, and often. That would leave Tennessee responsible for a huge new population dependent on this program, but with no way to support it or them. That's not fair; that's no way to treat people.

As to the argument that "when your health insurance premiums go up this year—and they will—you can thank Gov. Bill Haslam," this is perhaps the most incorrect statement of all. Premiums will increase because Obamacare costs more. The Society of Actuaries—a scrupulously non-partisan public-service group—has recently estimated that Obamacare will increase the cost of claims to insurance companies an average of 32 percent nationwide (considerably more in Tennessee). You can expect premiums to rise even more. Notably, that estimate assumes Medicaid expansion—the expansion does not save money.

It's not that complicated. Obamacare requires everyone to purchase more insurance--bigger policies with more coverages, no limits, and so forth. That costs more. A lot more. That's why premiums are rising.

Meanwhile, our Legislature's Republicans acted responsibly, protecting an overloaded TennCare lifeboat from a huge influx of new refugees.

Whatever our problems might be, they're best solved here at home, not by bumbling Washington bureaucrats who, frankly, don't know, and don't care.

James Arthur

Oak Ridge