I caught a bit of 60 Minutes tonight. They did an interesting and even inspiring story, Affordable Care for Those Still Uninsured. It follows two nurse practitioners, Teresa Gardner and Paula Meade, who drive around in an RV providing free healthcare to the working poor of Appalachia. These women are doing God’s work, which is very good because not only is God not doing it, the local government isn’t much interested either.
But something about the story really bothered me. It tiptoed around the reason that “the health wagon” was necessary. It started with a voice-over by Scott Pelley saying, “For the sake of those [working poor] people, Obamacare told the states to expand Medicaid, the government insurance for the very poor. But 24 states declined.” He should have noted that Obamacare provided those states with 100% funding for the first three years and then 90% funding after that.
It was only later that Pelley added, “These patients would be taken care of in the 26 states that expanded Medicaid under Obamacare. The federal government pays the extra cost to the states for three years but Virginia and the others that opted out fear that the cost in the future could bankrupt them.” This is a total distortion. This description gives the impression that the federal government pays for the program for three years and then drops it in the lap of the states. That just ain’t so.
Even worse, Pelley has no way of knowing that states have opted out of the Medicaid expansion because they fear it will bankrupt them. They have used that excuse for not expanding Medicaid and that is the most that you could say. The evidence, however, shows that this is all about politics. No blue states think Obamacare will bankrupt them.It’s only the red states. It’s clear to me that the real reason is that the Republicans want to kill the president’s signature achievement. But it would have been wrong to claim that that was what was really going on inside their heads. 60 Minutes doesn’t know what is going on inside their heads so it shouldn’t claim that it does.
I’m pretty sure if things were reversed, 60 Minutes would have provided some “he said, she said” coverage. They would have noted that Democrats were concerned about the costs but the administration noted that they were paying for almost all of the costs in perpetuity. They might have added something that I think would show the lie to the hypothetical Democratic position (and the real Republican position): the states could take the free funding for three years and if in the fourth year they found they just couldn’t afford it, they could stop doing it. But of course, things are not reversed, so 60 Minutes just pushed the idea that Republican controlled states aren’t just callously hurting the poor in the name of registering their dislike of the president. They pushed the Republican line that the states just can’t afford it. 60 Minutes has been really good recently pushing conservative issues.
The story of two medical professionals driving around Appalachia giving out healthcare to the working poor shouldn’t be inspiring. It should be embarrassing. It should be especially embarrassing to the 24 states that have not expanded their Medicaid programs. The old 60 Minutes—the one I watched as a kid—would have made that part of the story. Instead, we get a feelgood story about two heroic women. But no mention is made of the evil that makes their heroism necessary.