A few notes on State of Pennsylvania health care politics

This missive is an abstract of two letters to a friend asking me to sign a petition urging current Pennsylvania Governor to “do the right thing” and expand Medicaid benefits in our State. Sadly, I think the fate of that issue is not amenable to public or provider opinion, for the reasons outlined below.

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In order for this petition to have any impact, two variables must be expressed positively.

  1. Tom Corbett must care about the welfare of those that will lack meaningful health care if Medicaid expansion doesn’t occur. There is little evidence that he does. Mr. Corbett is a Republican, which means by political inclination he has little interest in the financial woes of those impacted by Medicaid and has continued to support other Republicans efforts to cut even more of their resources.
  1. Tom Corbett must be amenable to changing his lifelong political inclination on the basis of rational pleas from providers. This would be a lot like pleading with God to cure your brain tumor. If the tumor spontaneously regresses, it’s the work of God. If it doesn’t, it’s still the work of God but we just don’t understand the celestial logic.

Mr. Corbett is also very likely to be elected out of office soon, to be replaced by an increasingly popular Democratic candidate. You can be sure that Mr. Corbett will do everything in his power to hobble or incapacitate that person who will follow him. Not only is Mr. Corbett insulated from rational persuasion, you can be sure that this decision has already been made and the only issue left is how to present it to the public to minimize the political damage to Mr. Corbett and blame subsequent problems on his successor.

As a Republican Governor, Mr. Corbett’s only interest in Medicaid is cutting it, and since his money connection is the same as all of them, extreme right wing factions, he’s very unlikely to do anything not in the best interest of his political future.

So, unfortunately, we will have to live with the Medicaid issue, or hope an incoming Democratic Governor can cobble together something from the ashes.

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Sure. Be happy to sign the petition, but you must keep in mind that this is a political issue not amenable to coercion from special interests (health care providers) for  lot of reasons.  This decision and many others like it were made long ago. The only residual is how to assure political opponents get the blame for unpopularity with those affected after they’re implemented.

Again, Corbett is a more or less as it suits him “conservative” Republican which means among other thing (1) he’s committed to insure the rich get richer on the backs of the disadvantaged and (2) he lays awake every night praying and dreaming of how to get rid of the Affordable Care Act of 2008 (see #1).  So, Corbett has already decided that the only way he will approve any help for the poor is if he can make them pay more or work for their pittance. Yes….sickly single mothers of three and chronically ill old people up every morning to report to a WPA-like assignment.  Why not whips and chains.

The only public coercion that would move Corbett is if he figured some of it might hurt him politically. Unlikely for at least two reasons:

  1. Corbett is a lead pipe cinch to be dumped in 2016 and replaced by a popular Democrat (Wolf), so the opinions of those affected by his decisions always quickly transfer their ire to the most proximal victim, not the one that made the decisions (Obama in 2010).
  1. Paradoxically, although Republicans are quick to defend richer citizens (doctors), they (we) have managed to get bad enough press that it puts us into a different category- need to cut expenses to show fiscal responsibility. So as the media portray us as greedy abusers of Medicare (millions made ramming patients through “clinics” illegally, we become ripe targets to cut fat from a system with little fat to be cut elsewhere. Besides, Doctors complain a lot but they don’t strike so they’re paper tigers and can be effectively ignored, unlike Teamsters.

This is why since 1997, there has been no permanent fix of Medicare reimbursement policies, instead trying to find a way to tie cuts to the desired demise of the ACA of 2008.  And by the way, all of it is said to be financed by cuts to providers.  By rejecting joint/federal Medicaid expansion under the ACA, Corbett becomes the 11th Republican governor to stiff poor recipients of these funds in a hope of somehow dismantling the ACA.

 

Corbett would cheerfully toss two-bits at a homeless guy and snarl: “get a job”.  His path to do similarly to Medicaid recipients is pretty clear as well. He’s happy to humbly accept petitions for anything and might even actually have one of his flunkies read and summarize them before they’re trashed. Like Nixon’s response to 200,000 Vietnam vets demonstrating under his window on April 24, 1971 (I was there).

 

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