“A government bureau,” Ronald Reagan famously quipped, “is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth.”
Well, pass the smelling salts and alert the Reagan Presidential Library. Here in Georgia, we may have found an exception to the immortality of government programs – albeit with a catch.
After just three months, some of Georgia’s biggest cheerleaders for bigger government are ready to pull the plug on Gov. Brian Kemp’s limited expansion of Medicaid, known as Georgia Pathways. They say the program is underachieving, having enrolled fewer than 1,400 people so far.
That’s not quite 3% of the projected enrollment peak. The program has run for 5% of the five years it was approved to run as an experiment. So, you know, it’s obviously time to hit the panic button!
But the laughably short time they’ve waited before condemning the program isn’t the catch. Here’s the catch: The same people rushing to deep-six Georgia Pathways – primarily Democratic members of the General Assembly and advocates for the costlier, full expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare – opposed this program from the get-go.
They never wanted Georgia Pathways; they always wanted something else. Shockingly, they haven’t changed their minds after three whole months.
They’re the same cadre who urged the Biden administration to kill Georgia Pathways before it even launched – unlawfully, as a federal judge ruled. (Side note: Although the administration failed to prevent Georgia Pathways from moving forward, it’s still working to undermine the program. The latest effort: Refusing Georgia’s request to extend the waiver period by three years, to make up for the time lost fighting in court.)
For a bunch of people who say it’s vital to expand healthcare access for Georgia’s working poor, they sure are working overtime to torpedo the only existing option for … expanding healthcare access for Georgia’s working poor.
And you have to hand it to them: It takes real chutzpah to do that while also claiming they’re just being fiscally responsible.
I’m not even talking about their misdirections about the cost of Georgia Pathways vs. full Medicaid expansion. Because Georgia taxpayers are also federal taxpayers, we can’t simply ignore the billions of federal tax dollars per year that full Medicaid expansion would cost. And because the feds are already borrowing trillions of dollars per year, each additional dollar would bring the further expense of adding high-interest debt.
No, I’m talking about their support for a litany of government programs that have failed for a lot longer than three months.
Take public transportation. Whenever ridership declines, the answer from the same folks pooh-poohing Georgia Pathways is to spend more money and expand the system, not to close it.
The Atlanta Streetcar is the most egregious example. Eight years (not months) after service began on the 2.7-mile loop, ridership was just 15% of the figure originally forecast.
So we should shut it down, right? Dream on. This epic fail-on-rails is slated for a multimillion-dollar extension, so that it can gum up traffic on more streets while moving slower than many joggers.
We could also look at Medicaid itself. Six decades after the program was created, it’s unclear if it actually makes recipients healthier.
One of the leading studies on the subject, out of Oregon about a decade ago, found minimal health improvements among a group of new Medicaid enrollees compared to a control group who hadn’t gained coverage. New recipients believed themselves healthier, but researchers found “no statistically significant effect on several measures of physical health.” New recipients did, however, visit the emergency room more often – the opposite of the desired outcome.
Georgia Pathways is intended to improve on that mediocrity. If in the fullness of time it succeeds, expand it. If not, shut it down.
But if three months or bust is our new standard, there are a whole lot of other programs that ought to be shuttered first.