Democratic lawmakers in Oregon are considering ending the state's Medicaid expansion in an effort to address a $1.6 billion budget shortfall.
Oregon, one of just seven states in which Democrats can pass legislation without any involvement from the other party, seems like the last place you'd expect a Medicaid rollback. And it probably won't happen in the end. But legislators are keeping their options open to close a $1.6 billion state budget deficit.
The federal government stopped funding the states' Medicaid expansion 100 percent last year. This year, states are on the hook for 5 percent of the cost, and next year for 6 percent. In Oregon, that comes to an estimated $256 million for the biennium, which would be helpful in balancing the budget.
Probably this won't happen — it's much more likely that they'll decide to raise taxes instead. It would send a pretty weird message right now, when Democrats are passionately arguing that any changes to Obamacare would kill people, to have one of the few states they control abruptly drop Medicaid coverage for 350,000 of the childless adults who have gotten on it since the eligibility rules were weakened.
Then again, you're seeing in action what opponents of Obamacare had predicted: The "free" Medicaid expansion really isn't free. Hospitals love it, because it means they get paid for more of the hardship cases they are required to treat who show up in the emergency room, but someone has to pay them. And at the moment, Oregonians don't pay high enough taxes to make up the state's share.