GOP’s ‘collective guilt’ on Medicaid expansion

Every Republican legislator — including ones who voted ‘no’ on the Obamacare Medicaid expansion — shares some blame for its passage. Had they been willing to vocally buck the governor and raise a ruckus in their own caucus, they could have prevented a Speaker and Majority Leader they themselves selected from using the votes of Democrats and a minority of Republicans to “roll” their own caucuses.

This outcome happened because GOP legislators weren’t willing to do those things. Rather than rally the opposition, they spent the summer hiding in the weeds. No Republican legislator — including those who voted ‘no’ — can feel comfortable about a critical Obamacare implementation measure being adopted on his or her watch.

One of the many ‘dogs that didn’t bark’ in this affair was the mainstream media’s obliviousness to what should be an obvious question: Given a GOP base that vehemently disagrees with Obamacare — not just tea partiers and right-wingers but conventional grass-roots party members — what did Republican legislators expect to gain by allowing a key component of the federal health care law to be enacted on their watch?

From their center-right point of view there is ample reason for GOP lawmakers to regard the expansion as a bad deal for Michigan, and they’ve recently heard lots of evidence of how Medicaid does not help its intended beneficiaries. Plus, it’s unlikely that every one of the 28 House Republicans and eight in the Senate who voted for the expansion have all suddenly turned into enthusiastic big-government supporters at the same time.

Therefore, given the political price they must expect to pay, what do they think they’ll get in return? In most cases just campaign contributions can’t be the entire answer.

Under Obamacare, more than half of all health care spending in the country will flow through the government. Among other things, that means hospital cartels are a special interest that’s about to become much more wealthy and powerful in this state, to the tune of $3 billion per year in new Medicaid income. So hospital-related lobbying and political operations are a growth industry. It will be very revealing in the years to come to see which termed-out state legislators find comfortable sinecures in these operations.

(Jack McHugh is senior legislative analyst for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a research and educational institute based in Midland.)