Peter Kinder and his staff were called out for their factually-challenged fearmongering about the federal health care bill in at least two newspapers today, the News-Leader and Southeast Missourian. Kinder continues to claim that the new law will "wreck Missouri's budget at $500 million a year," which isn't even close to true. From the News-Leader:
Kinder has his facts wrong, according to an analysis of the health care bill from Nixon's Department of Social Services.
At most, the Medicaid expansion will cost state taxpayers $258.4 million by 2023, according to DSS memo distributed after the health care bill became law in March.
The Medicaid expansion will cost Missouri a total of $1.34 billion over a period of 10 years, according to DSS.
Some of Kinder's statements about the effect of the health care bill, however, are being questioned, both by the state agency responsible for Medicaid and the AARP, which supported the health care bill as a good deal for senior citizens and others it represents.
A memo examining the cost issued by the Missouri Department of Social Services estimates that the state will pay an extra $375.3 million from this year until 2019. There will be no additional cost until 2017. A memo detailing the costs further into the future, for 10 years starting in 2014 when the Medicaid changes take effect, gives a total cost of $1.34 billion.
The estimate is based on an assumption that all 255,000 Missourians who would become eligible under the bill would enroll in Medicaid, said Scott Rowson, spokesman for the department. The bill increases the income eligibility limit for adults from $3,504 per year for a family of three to $24,352 per year.
"This is the lion's share of whatever the state costs would be," Rowson said. "This is the primary focus. There will be other elements, but this is the one we are most interested in getting an estimate for now." Rich AuBuchon, chief of staff for Kinder, said he doesn't trust the [DSS] estimates. The estimates have been changing throughout the debate on the bill, he said, and don't take into account other aspects of the bill that could drive up the costs.
"It is very hard to rely on their figures," he said. "What we are seeing from them is a nonallowance for provider rate increases."
AuBuchon also said government agencies are poor estimators of costs. "It is very difficult for government to project its own costs." [emphasis added]
What in the world is AuBuchon talking about? He and Kinder are relying on DSS estimates from mid-2009 -- they're outdated and irrelevant, but they're DSS figures. As has been reported in numerous sources, the Republican talking points alleging that the expanded Medicaid requirements will cost about $500 per year are based on cost estimates created by the DSS for an obsolete version of the Senate health care bill. As published by The Star on January 14:
Republicans contend that could cost the state an additional $450 million a year, based on estimates released by the state Department of Social Services several months ago.
Whoops! Kinder and AuBuchon have no problem with relying on government agencies to estimate costs -- they just want to continue to use DSS figures they know to be completely unrelated to the bill that was signed into law. And when they're held accountable for their dishonesty, they say you can't trust anything the agency says. Give us a break.
"I have a statutory obligation as the chief advocate for our state's senior population," Kinder said on Fox News. "Seniors are going to be hurt perhaps among the worst of any segment of the population..." [...]
AARP doesn't see any reason for its members to complain, said Craig Eichelman, state director for Missouri. The organization, which enrolls people age 50 and older, has no opinion on Kinder's plans, he said. "That is going to play itself out, and we will sit on the sideline and watch that happen," he said.
But elements of the bill will mean better, cheaper insurance for people over 50, Eichelman said. The bill bars price discrimination based on age or pre-existing conditions, makes preventive services such as cancer screenings and wellness checkups free for Medicare recipients and closes the "doughnut hole" in the Medicare Part D prescription plan.
"There are myths and there are truths, and these are the real benefits for our members that I hope rises above the clutter," Eichelman said.
Please. Just stop it already.