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Guest Dispatch: Medicaid and the States, A Cautionary Tale

By Guillermo Vallejo

One of the big headlines yesterday and today is the revelation that President Obama’s health care law would allow several million middle-class people to enroll in Medicaid.  You heard it right folks, after Obamacare kicks in a couple with an annual income of $64,000 would qualify for Medicaid.  Not surprisingly, the Obama Administration first downplayed this inconvenient truth.  In fact, they defended the change.

Administration officials and senior Congressional Democrats maintained that it wasn’t a loophole, but rather the result of their efforts to simplify the rules for who gets covered under Obamacare.  Here’s a tip for Democrats:  You really want to simplify the red tape in healthcare coverage?  Repeal Obamacare.  It was only after continued scrutiny that on Tuesday the White House issued a statement which said, “We are exploring options to address this issue.”

You hear those cries?  Those are coming from the White House press pool whenever the Obama administration pretends to be responding to an issue.  It got so bad that the chief actuary for Medicaid, Richard Foster, had to comment on it.  Usually Medicaid actuaries stay away from commenting on policy so as to remain non-partisan.  This Medicaid fiasco made that impossible.  Foster has publicly said that it “just doesn’t make sense.”

For last few years, most states have been clamoring for relief from rising Medicaid costs.  This recent debacle simply epitomizes what is wrong with Obamacare and its one-size-fits-all strategy that will balloon the budget of every state.  It is also indicative of something else: the mechanism states have in order to assert their constitutional rights.  Who is looking after the states?  Most people would say each state’s respective governor has that responsibility.  Others would say the courts.

In reality, the mechanism our founding founders created for the preservation of state’s rights was gutted on April 8, 1913.  That is the date when the 17th Amendment was ratified.  It made Senators directly elected by the people.  Before its passage, Senators were chosen by each state’s legislature.  The founders knew that our fledging Republic would need a safeguard against federal encroachment on the states.  That safeguard was a Senate composed of individuals that represented the interests of their state’s as entities rather than individual constituencies.

Once the 17th Amendment destroyed that safeguard, state’s rights have been on an inevitable decline.  If the current Senate reflected the will of the states do you really think Obamacare would have been passed in the first place?  Perhaps the time has come to have a serious national conversation about repealing the 17th Amendment.

Federal courts shouldn’t be in the business of protecting the state’s rights.  After all, they are part of the federal power structure.  Why would they want to curb their own power?  We need to return to the original founding vision of our nation if we wish to stop the ever-increasing role the federal government is playing in all our lives.

Guillermo Vallejo works on Capitol Hill for a Florida Member of Congress. He is originally from Miami, Florida and holds a Masters Degree in Democracy and Governance from Georgetown University. The views expressed herein are his own and provided in a personal capacity, not tied to his work in the U.S. Government.

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