Alexander: “Every Senator Who Votes to Increase Medicaid Eligibility to 150% of Poverty . . . Should Have to Serve as Governor for Eight Years”

June 16th, 2009 - WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said today during a speech on the Senate floor that “every senator who votes to provide more health care by increasing Medicaid eligibility to 150 percent of poverty should have to go home and serve as governor for eight years to try to manage and pay for their Medicaid program.

“Medicaid is a terrible base upon which to build improved health care,” said Alexander, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. “It is filled with lawsuits, federal court consent decrees, inefficiency and delays, and an intolerable waste of taxpayer money. Increasing coverage in this way will require much higher state taxes at a time when states are making massive cuts in services and a few are nearly bankrupt. In Tennessee, it would require a new state income tax of about 10 percent to pay for the increased costs—as well as adding another half trillion dollars to the federal debt.”

Alexander added, “A large number of the patients who have been promised medical care would struggle to find it because more and more physicians are refusing to see Medicaid patients because of low reimbursement rates for doctor’s services.”

Alexander said that rather than expand a failing government-run program that provides substandard care to 58 million of our poorest citizens, “the better way is to extend medical care to low-income Americans now served by Medicaid by giving them government subsidies so that they can purchase private insurance like that provided by the Wyden-Bennett bill, the Coburn-Burr bill, and the Gregg bill.”

Alexander also warned of the dangers of a government-run insurance option, which is supported by the President. “Putting a government-run and subsidized plan in competition with your private health insurance plans would be like putting an elephant in a room with some mice and saying, ‘OK, fellas: compete,’” said Alexander. “After a while, the elephant would be the only one left in the room—the elephant, or government-run healthcare, would be your only choice.”