The Washington Post reports that, so far, “the vast majority of Obamacare sign-ups are in Medicaid.” Indeed, some states report “a crush of people applying for an expansion of Medicaid and a trickle of sign-ups for private insurance.”
In Maryland, for example, more than 80,000 people have signed up for Medicaid, compared to the 3,000 or so who have signed up for private health insurance. In Washington State, the corresponding numbers are 42,605 compared to 6,390.
Part of the disparity is down to technical problems with the websites of some state exchanges, Maryland for instance. The ratios will not be so stark once these websites become more accessible.
Even so, experts find the whooping disparities surprising, according to the Post:
“When we first saw the numbers, everyone’s eyes kind of bugged out,” said Matt Salo, who runs the National Association of Medicaid Directors. “Of the people walking through the door, 90 percent are on Medicaid. We’re thinking, what planet is this happening on?”
I’m not sure, though, why anyone is surprised. Medicaid offers free or low cost health insurance; the Obamacare exchanges offer sticker shock.
I know we’re not supposed to talk about how much people like “free stuff.” But that doesn’t mean we should be surprised by the fact.
And while we’re being politically incorrect, let’s note that Medicaid is being offered to a population many of whose members have already become dependent on government (e.g., for food stamps). It’s no surprise that these people are quick to snap up other goodies. They don’t need Navigators to take them to the trough.
Obamacare has always been, to a significant degree, about transferring wealth. It stands to reason that the most stark instance of wealth transference — the Medicaid expansion — will be the part of Obamacare that is most taken advantage of.
The Post frets that the Medicaid stampede will enable Republicans to argue that “the law is primarily becoming an expansion of a costly entitlement program.” Actually, though, the electorate might be more sympathetic if that’s all Obamacare was. In reality, it is massive wealth transference coupled with massive disruption of the health care system, to the detriment of a middle class that was largely satisfied with the system.