Republicans couldn’t have found a better target than Medicaid. It’s everything they hate—a huge government program that serves poor people and is administered by a nonprofit instead of private sector. Unfortunately, it was also working extremely well. Community Care of North Carolina, the nonprofit that administered the program, was a model for other states. Even Republican Senator Richard Burr praised CCNC’s success in keeping costs low and saving money.
So what were Republicans who took over the legislature to do? Gut it, of course. In the midst of the Great Recession, when unemployment was reaching double digits and the need for Medicaid assistance was increasing, they slashed the budget. Former Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Lanier Cansler, a Republican, warned legislators that the cuts would cause a budget shortfall.
Cansler was right, of course, but cynical Republicans started pointing at the shortfall and claiming the program was broken. It wasn’t but that didn’t matter. The free marketeers wanted to privatize the system because profit is more important the poor folks. Besides, by cutting the budget, they could shift more money away from a program for poor people to subsidize their tax cuts for the wealthy.
Now, after mismanaging the budget for four years and shortchanging Medicaid, the GOP is going to fix it by turning it over to insurance companies. The Republicans broke a program that was working and then turned it over to people who specialize in making money instead of delivering services. Maybe they can break it so bad the GOP will argue to scrap it altogether.
Republicans needed to prove a point: Government can’t do anything right. To do it, they broke a program that was working and now added uncertainty to the lives of hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians.
Their other target is public schools. It will take longer than Medicaid, but the method is the same. They’re slowly depriving schools of money and then complaining they aren’t working. They’re also subsidizing private schools, shifting money into the pockets of those who already have it. Expect to hear soon that public schools are broken beyond repair and we need to turn them over to for-profit education companies. It’s a cynical way to run a government.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com, a website of commentary and analysis.