Dueling sets of data: What matters in Alabama’s debate over Medicaid expansion, the people
The Anniston Star, March 4, 2014, Editorial
Supporters of Medicaid expansion often point to studies by UAB and University of Alabama that show the economic benefits the state would reap if Gov. Robert Bentley would drop his opposition to expansion through the Affordable Care Act.
This week, opponents of expansion are all wiggly with excitement over a study released by Troy University’s Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy. The Troy research claims just the opposite is true.
Troy’s data say the UA/UAB reports were based on faulty assumptions and that the increase in tax revenue and job creation from expansion would last only a short time. After that, the program will cost the state more than it brings in.
However, the Troy study’s authors went beyond charging the UA/UAB researchers with shabby scholarship and faulty analysis. According to Scott Beaulier, executive director of the Johnson Center, the competing reports were designed to advance the political agenda of the Alabama Hospital Association, which commissioned those studies – an academic crime of the highest order.
It should be noted that Beaulier and the Johnson Center are not without suspected political bias. The Johnson Center was created with a $1.2 million grant from the Koch Foundation, which has a strong track record of backing efforts to restrict the role of government. Any study that raises questions about the expansion of a federal program such as Medicaid would fit neatly into the Koch political agenda.
In all likelihood, Gov. Bentley and his supporters will embrace the Troy study as revealed truth and steel their resolve not to give in. Meanwhile, the other side will argue that the UAB and UA studies are sound and scholarly, while the Troy report is motivated by politics.
Meanwhile, Alabamians who the governor could help are caught in this maze of politics and policies.
There are between 181,000 and 300,000 Alabamians who lack health insurance because Bentley’s rigid anti-Obamacare ideology won’t allow it. For them, this is not a political argument. It’s a matter of sickness and health, maybe even life and death.
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