NYT’s Porter: GOP, Kentucky Medicaid Reform ‘Will Let Some Americans Die’

January 17th, 2018 11:41 AM

Will MAGA kill poor Kentuckians? That was the thrust of Wednesday’s column by Eduardo Porter, liberal New York Times reporter turned leftist economics columnist, “Path Forward In Kentucky (But Don’t Get Sick).” Under the harmless headline, Porter didn’t hedge his contempt for the cost-cutting, bringing in President Trump’s trademark slogan to smear fiscal conservatives as killers for favoring Medicaid reform in the states.

Apparently the plan to Make America Great Again will let some Americans die.

Kentucky rushed last week to become the first of the nation’s 50 states to impose a work requirement on recipients of Medicaid. Under the state’s HEALTH plan, most able-bodied 19-to-64-year-olds -- excluding the pregnant, the medically frail and some others -- will have to work, get job training or perform community service for at least 20 hours a week to qualify for coverage, starting in July....the fact remains that the plan is expected to reduce Medicaid spending by $2.4 billion over five years. Roughly half of the 350,000 able-bodied Medicaid beneficiaries in Kentucky currently do not meet the work requirements, by the government’s estimates, and could lose their benefits....

Porter went down the list of other states with similar reform proposals and concluded: “Millions of Americans stand at risk of losing their health care. Many -- the most fragile, the least great -- could die as a result.”

Then Porter turned to weep over welfare reform, which President Bill Clinton signed in 1996, to wailing and gnashing of teeth from the left and warnings of dire consequences, none of which came to pass (could history repeat itself in Kentucky?). Not even Porter could quantify the supposed harm of welfare reform.

Kentucky was an eager participant in the last big so-called entitlement reform, visited upon the nation’s poor just over two decades ago. Under that 1996 program directed at welfare benefits, the entitlement to federal assistance was replaced by a hodgepodge of programs managed by the states and financed by a fixed dollop of federal cash. Work requirements became the norm. And people got less help.

Porter twisted the knife:

The problem with the latest twist in Republicans’ effort to pare the social safety net is that removing the poor’s health insurance may not just make their life more difficult.

It might kill them.

It is well known by now that health insurance saves lives. A review of recent research in the Annals of Internal Medicine concluded that the odds of dying for non-elderly adults are between 3 and 41 percent higher for the uninsured than for the insured.

But “health insurance” is pretty useless if you can’t use it to obtain care, and Obamacare has driven premiums and deductibles up and reducing doctor participation.

Porter tugged hard at the (hypothetical, actuarial) heartstrings to treat Kentucky’s modest reforms as literal killers.

Would their deaths cause America to be greater?

Last November, Porter was appalled that Americans refuse to go along with confiscatory tax rates like the rest of the civilized world, and suggested racism.