January 23, 2018
Don’t believe everything you read. That’s certainly good advice with respect to a recent poll claiming that 83 percent of Virginians support Medicaid expansion, including 72 percent of Republicans.
First, consider the source: the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association, which has lobbied extensively for Medicaid expansion for years, commissioned the poll. Virginia’s hospitals have been pleading poverty to gin up support for expanding Medicaid, but a new study published this month shows that their year-over-year profits grew a healthy 13.86 percent, more than triple the national average. In addition, their net worth increased 8.1 percent without expansion.
Second, the fantastical results are completely at odds with a nationwide poll that was conducted by the Foundation for Government Accountability in August 2017. That poll showed that majorities of likely voters oppose Medicaid expansion, support freezing enrollment in expansion states, and agree that an enrollment freeze would free up limited resources for the truly needy.
Moreover, the way the question was framed in the recent Virginia poll was calculated to produce the results it did. The question included none of the trade-offs or downsides of expanding Medicaid. The poll question simply asked whether respondents favor or oppose Medicaid expansion. That’s like asking ‘do you want free ice cream?’ Of course, most people are going to say ‘yes’. But if you add qualifiers to the question—‘do you still want free ice cream if it means your kids will get more holes in their teeth and you will pay more at the dentist?’—the number of favorable responses will drop precipitously.
This dynamic was definitely at work in two healthcare-related polls conducted in recent months. When higher taxes and vanishing consumer choices were added to the poll question, support for single payer healthcare declined among respondents. Even the fabled support for Obamacare’s preexisting conditions provisions drops if the poll question includes the necessity of insurer subsidies, higher taxes and premiums, or means lower quality of care. Dramatically, inclusion of the downsides flipped initial support to two-to-one opposition, with the biggest shifts among Democrats. Support went down with the inclusion of access problems, down with longer waits, and down with surprise medical bills.
Is it any wonder, then, that in the FGA poll referenced above, support for Medicaid expansion clearly dropped:
[w]when voters are told that the number of able-bodied Americans enrolling is higher than expected, and that [a freeze] would save $11 billion in the first year and $500 billion after ten years, [and] that such savings could be redirected to infrastructure, public safety, and education.
Don’t believe everything you read. It’s simply not credible that 83 percent of Virginians and 72 percent of Virginia Republicans would, upon mature reflection of all the trade-offs and downsides, support the expansion of a broken and budget-busting Medicaid program. This poll was rigged and is not to be believed.
In conclusion, the Virginia Medicaid Reform Team is a broad coalition of grassroots organizations, stakeholders, think tanks, and Virginia physicians. We ask that you not vote for Medicaid expansion and support efforts to reform the way Virginia delivers healthcare to the most needy without becoming more dependent on the federal government.
Virginia Medicaid Reform Team
The Middle Resolution