Saturday, June 27, 2020

1889 Institute: Think Carefully before Voting on SQ 802

Think Carefully before Voting on SQ 802

A vote “Yes” on State Question 802 would expand Medicaid to able-bodied adults above the poverty line. A vote “No” would keep taxpayers buying health care mainly for poor children and pregnant mothers.

State Question 802 is not that simple. Terms of Medicaid expansion would be set in our constitution, sidestepping our legislature, which is supposed to adjust to existing circumstances, taking that flexibility away. Consequently, funding for public education, roads, parks, prisons, courts, and other purposes, not constitutionally protected, will one day see deep cuts during an inevitable economic downturn, to fund Medicaid.

Commercials for SQ 802 lead us to believe that Medicaid expansion is a pure windfall. They never say it requires $100 million of our money, for which there is no source. If necessary, the money comes from the rest of the state’s budget, whose biggest funding item is public education.

Poor people don’t fund commercials. It’s big hospitals, with their million-dollar salaried CEOs. Low-income individuals are getting the basic health care services they need, and hospitals are making money. Otherwise, new hospitals and hospital expansion construction projects would not be constant. When health care industry spokespeople claim financial hardship due to poor people not paying bills, it’s a lie. Even using grossly inflated prices to exaggerate losses from charity and unpaid bills, these are minor expenses for the big hospitals.

Medicaid expansion is about making very wealthy people in healthcare richer. At some point, we’ll steal from our schools to pay big-city hospital administrators so they can buy a better model of Mercedes or another vacation home that’s not in Oklahoma.

But what about the rural hospitals? At a hearing in the state capitol some nurses testified about how their rural hospital was made financially sound. They stopped operating wastefully like big-city hospitals and stopped providing services better suited to big hospitals.

Most of healthcare’s almost 20 percent of GDP is a pure transfer from everybody else to wealthy health care providers through grossly over-priced services in an industry where competition mostly does not exist because patients don’t pay their own bills.

But, health care is a right. We all need it, for good health, for dignity, and for life itself. You can make the same argument about food and housing, and indeed, these are often provided by government. But the problem with saying any one person has a “right” to something another person must produce is that you are also saying you have a right to another person’s labor. Paying them with taxpayer money only means you have a right to taxpayers’ labor, without recompense.

There’s a word for when a person has a “right” to another person’s labor without recompense – it’s “slavery.” Keep that in mind while casting your vote on SQ 802 on June 30.

Byron Schlomach is 1889 Institute Director and can be contacted at


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