In some ways, you have to hand it to the McCrory administration for the way it has manipulated messages and public opinion on the state’s health insurance system for poor people, Medicaid.
The McCrory team came into office with a cynical and ideologically-based plan to sell off what has been a successful public program to private corporations. The key to making such a plan politically feasible, therefore, was to convince the news media and the public that the program was somehow “broken.” How better to do this than to repeatedly allege and attempt to show that the program had supposedly massive cost overruns?
And so the P.R. campaign began. Following up on the decision of the conservative General Assembly to demand unreasonable program savings and then complain about “runaway expenses” when the absurd targets weren’t met, the administration helped generate new “audit” numbers that supposedly showed a similar trend — all, of course, the fault of past Democratic governors.
For months the plan worked well as right-wing politicians and think tanks and numerous reporters dutifully repeated the “Medicaid is broken” mantra despite ample evidence to the contrary. The dishonest rap had the added bonus of helping to justify the decision not to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. It even provided a convenient excuse for dozens of other draconian budget cut to education and other essential services.
Now, however, the truth is starting to come out and the P.R. plan is faltering. Yesterday researchers on the General Assembly staff confirmed what many experts have been saying for a long time: namely that North Carolina’s Medicaid system works well and much more efficiently than the programs in most states.
Indeed, if anything is “broken” in Medicaid, it’s not the overall system built by past administrations and General Assemblies, but the newfangled NC TRACKS reimbursement system that’s been badly botched during implementation by the current administration!
In short, the problem isn’t Medicaid itself — a hugely successful public program simply in need of attention and nurturing; the problem is the people who are quickly running that successful system into the ground as part of a plan to sell of an enormously valuable public asset at a cut rate price.
Let’s hope the slippery right-wing spin game continues to unravel and that the truth about Medicaid continues to emerge.