I don’t like it when voters support tax increases.
Needless to say, voters rarely if ever vote to raise their own taxes. Instead, they get seduced into robbing their neighbors in exchange for the promise of new goodies from politicians.
I raise this issue because the people of Oregon just gave fairly strong support to a tax-hike referendum. Here are some of the details.
…voters approved hundreds of millions of dollars in health care taxes in a special election. Measure 101, which led 62 percent to 38 percent with returns partially tallied, was the only issue on the ballot. It will raise $210 million to $320 million in taxes on Oregon’s largest hospitals and many health insurance policies by 2019.
At first glance, this is just another example of Oregon voters voting for bigger government and more class warfare.
But as you read further in the story, you’ll find something remarkable.
…the tax deal was a victory for…the health care industry, which bankrolled the “yes” campaign. …The largest contributor to the campaign to pass the taxes was the association that represents Oregon hospitals. Other health care companies also spent heavily to pass the measure.
Huh? Why would an industry support and bankroll an initiative to give more of their money to government?!?
It turns out that the industry isn’t filled with masochists (like the neurotic trust fund leftists who posture in favor of higher taxes). Instead, the special interests such as the hospital lobby viewed a couple of hundred million of taxes as an “investment” that will generate about $1 billion of taxpayer-financed loot.
…the health care industry…will benefit from the resulting $1 billion-plus that will be spent on Oregonians’ health care. …
And taxpayers in other states will pick up a majority of the tab!
That tax revenue will enable Oregon to qualify for $630 million to $960 million in federal Medicaid matching funds that benefit the state’s health care industry. …state taxes would allow the state to keep federal matching funds.
This scam was exposed last year in a Wall Street Journal column.
…42 states tax hospitals. Why? One answer is the perverse incentives built into the Medicaid law. When a state returns tax money to hospitals through Medicaid “supplemental payments,” it qualifies for matching funds from Washington. …Medicaid supplemental payments, as the term implies, are separate and distinct from the reimbursements that cover the actual cost of services rendered to beneficiaries. But the federal government turns a blind eye to the circular nature of the arrangement: Hospitals and other providers are both the source and the recipient of most of the funds.
Here are more details on this oleaginous ripoff.
…supplemental-payment schemes…“have the effect of shifting costs to the federal government,” according to a 2014 study by the Governmental Accountability Office. The more a state taxes its hospitals and then gives them money back, the more federal funds it can obtain. …The hospital tax is the biggest revenue-raiser, but 44 states also tax nursing homes, and 34 tax at least one other type of health-care provider. The GAO study found that these taxes had almost doubled nationally, from about $9.5 billion in 2008 to $18.5 billion in 2012.
By the way, I have written on this topic before, and even included a handy infographic that explains a version of the scam.
Let’s now return to the column. The author cites an example from Connecticut.
Connecticut hospitals will pay $900 million in taxes, but the state will offset that with $600 million in supplemental Medicaid payments—matched with $450 million of federal funds. The state keeps those matching funds, plus the $300 million from the hospital tax, meaning Hartford comes out ahead in the whole scheme by $750 million. Nice work if you can get it.
I’m not a fan of my home state, but the Nutmeg State is hardly alone is playing this game.
What’s remarkable is that there are 8 states that don’t participate in the ripoff.
Anyhow, I can’t resist making one final point. Here’s a sordid tidbit from the earlier story about what happened in Oregon.
Democrats in the Oregon House helped achieve the deal by agreeing to fund three projects in a Medford Republican’s district, in exchange for that lawmaker providing the lone Republican “yes” vote in the state House.
One more piece of evidence that Republicans often are the most despicable people.
P.S. While today’s column focused on an odious quirk in the Medicaid program, let’s not lose sight of the forest by fixating on this particular tree. The reason we should care is that Medicaid is an initiative-sapping, money-draining program that greatly contributes to the mess in our overall healthcare system.
P.P.S. Which is why I encourage folks to watch the short video I narrated on the program. Pay close attention to the discussion that starts at 1:48. I explain that programs with both federal and state spending create perverse incentives for even more spending (e.g., what I wrote today). This is mostly because politicians in either Washington or state capitals can expand eligibility and take full credit for new handouts while only being responsible for a portion of the costs.