Berger gets fact-checked on his attack of Medicaid expansion

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He's not the sharpest tool in the shed:

In his shot-across-the-bow statement, Berger listed what he called seven fictional claims by Democratic supporters of expansion, along with what he touted as facts refuting the claims. It appears many of Berger’s points come from the right-leaning Foundation for Government Accountability.

Berger said Democratic claims “are simply misleading at best and purposely deceptive in some instances.”

We've had several years of looking on longingly at other states (who aren't plagued by ideologues), and the evidence is overwhelming. Expanding Medicaid is not only the right thing to do, it's the smart thing to do, as well. Here are a couple of Berger's misfires:

Berger said that expanded Medicaid coverage doesn’t necessarily mean expanded access. “Almost 1 in 5 North Carolinians are already on Medicaid, and expanding the program by 25 percent puts traditional program enrollees, their coverage and access at risk,” he said.

He also said expanding Medicaid would “exacerbate a primary-care shortage in areas in North Carolina.”

Berger disputed the Democratic claim that North Carolina is missing out on “free money” from the federal government. “People in North Carolina are not paying for expansion in other states, because the truth is that no one is currently paying for Medicaid expansion,” Berger said. “That bill is being left to our grandchildren.”

Apparently he hasn't been paying attention, because the primary care shortage to which he refers has a lot more to do with people not paying their bills than Medicaid reimbursement levels. Filling in that gap will strengthen rural health care, not hurt it. And as for the money he says we're not missing out on:

A study by Avalere Health, a health-care research and consulting company, determined that North Carolina will lose out on $13 billion in federal Medicaid funding over the next 10 years by not expanding the program.

Mark Hall, a law and public-health professor at Wake Forest University, is an expert in legislative issues. In April, he released a study titled “Do States Regret Expanding Medicaid?” His finding was that “the strong balance of objective evidence indicates that actual costs to states so far from expanding Medicaid are negligible or minor, and that states across the political spectrum do not regret their decisions to expand Medicaid.”

On Wednesday, Hall responded to Berger’s fiction-fact claims. Hall said that expanding Medicaid has been shown to add jobs in states through new funding that increases health-care capacity.

He said requiring hospitals to help pay for North Carolina’s 10 percent of new administrative costs “is not likely to increase costs to patients because hospitals will also see reduced uncompensated care. The two effects — tax and reduced uncompensated care — should be a wash.”

Medicaid expansion has been operating (very well) in other states for years, so much so that even Republican states have been signing on. And that is despite the right-wing campaign of disinformation that Berger embraced to make his sad arguments. Here are the deets on the Foundation for Government Accountability:

Through 2016, the Foundation for Government Accountability received $925,000 from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.

Bradley detailed the most recent grants in internal documents examined by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD). Below is a description of the grant prepared by CMD. The quoted text was written by Bradley staff.

2016: $350,000 to support a project on “reducing the welfare state and restoring the working class.” “FGA has worked to advance reforms that move people off of welfare as well. In this case working with the Bradley supported American Legislative Exchange Council, and the Secretaries’ Innovation Group, FGA has conducted research on and public education about the benefits of work requirements and fraud audits.” FGA wants to expand target states from original 22 to include another 19 more.

2015: $350,000 to support public education about Medicaid and a project on reducing the welfare state and restoring the working class. “During the past couple of years, FGA’s principal project has been to educate the policymakers and the public in specifically targeted states about the benefits of rejecting Medicaid expansion under Obamacare… Along with the Bradley supported Galen Institute, (CEO Tarren) Bragdon and FGA have contributed constructively to the health care debate. Its topic specific, in depth focus on state level reform has been of a piece with much of Bradley’s other recent strategic grantmaking—including, among others, to the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Center for Energy Innovation and Independence’s group of state attorneys general, the Goldwater Institute’s state litigation alliance, the Interstate Policy Alliance, the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research’s Center for state and Local Leadership, the Sagamore Institute, Think Freely Media, the State Human Service Secretaries’ Innovation Group and the State Policy Network.”

The FGA has close ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). In 2011, CEO Tarren Bragdon presented to ALEC's Health and Human Safety Task Force at the 2011 States and Nation Policy Summit in Scottsdale, Arizona.[10] Bragdon touted the state's controversial Medicaid reform plans and Florida’s welfare drug testing law during the event.[11]

The former director of ALEC's Health and Human Services Task Force, Christie Herrera, went on to become FGA's vice president of policy.

Why (you might ask) are these people willing to spend so much money for research that is so easily refuted? Because the targets of their misinformation campaign aren't intelligent and objective lawmakers, they are low-information Obama-hating troglodytes like Phil Effing Berger.

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Hat-tip to Richard Craver

and the Winston-Salem Journal, for making that connection to the Foundation for Government Accountability. Whether he discovered it or was given a tip is almost beside the point; so often these days we aren't given the proper context in stories about public policy, and the public (desperately) needs to know where these influences are coming from.

I would love to see a deeper dive, showing where the money originated from (like the Sourcewatch info above), but naming the group is a damn fine start. And I'm also glad they used the terms "right-leaning" to describe it, because too often newspapers and television will just say "conservative" when describing these outfits, but are more than happy to toss "left-wing" or "left-leaning" out there on the other side. And from my research, I can safely say that the integrity of "left-leaning" think-tanks is leaps and bounds more solid than the corporate shills from the right.