Solve one health care problem, make another worse

It looks as if the law of unintended consequences has caught up with Obamacare.  The Wall Street Journal reports:

Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson presents intriguing evidence that the Medicaid expansion under ObamaCare may be contributing to the rise in opioid abuse. According to a federal Health and Human Services analysis requested by the Senator, overdose deaths per million residents rose twice as fast in the 29 Medicaid expansion states—those that increased eligibility to 138% from 100% of the poverty line—than in the 21 non-expansion states between 2013 and 2015.

There were also marked disparities between neighboring states based on whether they opted into ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion. Deaths increased twice as much in New Hampshire (108%) and Maryland (44%)—expansion states—than in Maine (55%) and Virginia (22%). Drug fatalities shot up by 41% in Ohio while climbing 3% in non-expansion Wisconsin.

Using open source court files and news stories, Mr. Johnson’s office also found 261 cases of people who were recently prosecuted for exploiting Medicaid cards to obtain opioids. Last month an Army veteran was convicted of selling oxycodone pills with forged prescriptions. His co-conspirator paid for the pills with a Medicaid card.

A police detective in Wisconsin told Mr. Johnson’s office that 240 oxycodone pills can be purchased with a Medicaid card for a $1 co-pay and resold for $4,000 on the street. A single Vicodin pill can fetch $50.

In a letter to the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services, Mr. Johnson last month observed that “it appears that the program has created a perverse incentive for people to use opioids, sell them for large profits and stay hooked.” He’s asked the Inspector General to investigate Medicaid’s controls to prevent such abuses.

There’s more at the link.  (The article may disappear behind a paywall.)

Expanding Medicaid seemed like a good idea at the time, to help control runaway medical costs;  but it hasn’t been very successful in that.  Now, with this problem on top of cost inflation, one wonders what the powers that be will do to solve the imbroglio.  Karl Denninger offered a simple solution in two steps, but it would involve an immediate recession as prices realigned and stabilized, so it’s not likely to be adopted.  However, anything else will probably lead to the same result, further down the road.

It’s a mess.  I honestly don’t see any solution to the US healthcare crisis in the near term . . . and all of us are going to get caught up in it in due course.



  1. I remember a mid '70s '60 minutes' episode where they explained how the rise of Medicare and especially Medicaid was the driving force behind the increase in medical costs.

    Further research on my own showed that this was very true.

    So, no, this Medicaid expansion causing abuse doesn't surprise me at all. Especially when Medicaid clinics are the easiest to get pills from.

    My wife has been going to a pain doctor for over 10 years for an non-cureable pain issue. Yet still to this day, even though she has fought to lower her doses, she is treated the same by the Federal system, restricted amounts (30 days only), piss tests, the whole nine yards. Her doctor even told her that other clinics would be happy to hand her bags and bags full, if she was only on Medicaid. (We have a good relationship with this doctor, and he actually looks forward to seeing us, so, no, he's not trying to pawn us off.)

  2. The people who are going to get hurt when the crack-down begins will be the terminally ill, the ones on hospice. Doctors will be afraid to prescribe enough pain killers/opioids for fear of losing their licenses. Saw it during the late 60s/early 70s. The poor patient was dying of cancer but nobody would prescribe enough pain killers because they were afraid that the patient would get hooked on opioids.

  3. Judy, they already are. Sure, the drugs are low cost, but you still have to pay for that Dr. visit every month because they only prescribe 30 days worth.

    During the middle of BHO's tenure as President, Oxycodones and Morphines were hard to get after the middle of the month. Many decent pharmacies would run out of their quota and couldn't get more. So lots of patients (or their care-givers) ended up running around from one pharmacy to another within the same chain, and then going to other chains for the drugs they needed. So, of course, the Fed Gov then accused these people as 'drug shoppers.'

    Thanks, Affordable Care Act!!!!

  4. This mess just gives futher evidence that any field in which the Government interferes, disaster is always the end-result.
    The Federal Government should restrict itself to those responsibilities mandated by the Constiution of the USA and nothing more. Other than the very few responsibilities arrogated unto the Federal Government by the Several States, those States alone should govern themselves, each and every one individually.
    The Medicaid/Obamacare mess is but one major symptom of how Big Government fails, it fails every time without exception.

  5. The "crisis" is a legislatively manufactured Crisis. It is only one problem that crashing on us now. We are seeing others in the Antifa Nazis running amok, and others are simply biding their time. The US is in deep, deep trouble.

  6. Don't forget that the kenyan and his demo buddies took $500,000,000 from Medicare to pay for oboyruphucked care.

  7. It would make sense – Obamacare was supposed to expand access to drugs, people taking advantage of this would explain this. Many doctors oblige their patient's wishes who ask for more pain relief.

    We also noticed that fraud cases of DME (Durable Medical Equipment) companies seemed to increase as well. At least more reports of this are seen in TV news.

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