John Oliver Tackles Medicaid Gap Because An Important Election 2015 Is Happening Right Now
John Oliver does not care about the 2016 election. He made that pretty clear when he stopped by The Late Show in September and told Stephen Colbert, "I couldn't give less than a shit" about next November because "I don't care until we're in the same year as the thing I'm supposed to care about." That might be precisely why on Sunday's episode of Last Week Tonight, Oliver chose to focus on the Medicaid gap, which could greatly widen based on important gubernatorial and legislative elections happening this Tuesday. Yes, before Election 2016, there is Election 2015.
The Medicaid gap is not a "terrible clothing chain where you can buy khaki hospital gowns sewn by children in India," but rather people who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but too little to afford their own insurance. Obamacare was supposed to fix this by providing subsidized insurance to everyone above the poverty line and expanding Medicaid coverage to include everyone below. However, when a 2012 Supreme Court ruling decided that most of Obamacare would be protected, states were still given the option on whether to expand Medicaid.
Why states would opt out, though, is a little strange, Oliver says. That's because the federal government would pay 100 percent of the cost for the first three years, and then would eventually foot just 90 percent of the bill. In other words, states would, in the end, only be responsible for just 10 percent of the cost.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 20 states have not expanded their Medicaid programs as of September 2015, leaving more than 3 million people without health insurance just because they don't earn enough money to get help from the federal government but make too much to qualify for Medicaid. From Texas to Louisiana to Mississippi, states spoke out against Obamacare, including the Lone Star State's Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, who argued, "Would you consider expanding a broken system? Of course not, of course not. It's like a drug dealer. You give them your first hit free, and then they're hooked for years and years." But, as Oliver points out:
Not all Republicans who opposed Obamacare chose to skip on Medicaid. Two presidential candidates, John Kasich and Chris Christie, ended up expanding their states' Medicaid programs. Republicans accused Kasich of caving in and being in favor of big government, a common criticism that has followed him on the campaign trail. Kasich's reasoning was that "[just] because you oppose Obamacare doesn't mean when you have an opportunity to bring these $14 billion of Ohio money back to Ohio. That's not Obamacare, that's Medicaid." According to Oliver, that's a weird argument though, as if "accepting billions of dollars to give health care to poor people is somehow a brave and noble stand."
Mississippi is one of the states whose incumbent governor, Phil Bryant, doesn't want to expand Medicaid, but come Tuesday, voters can decide on whether to back Democratic nominee Robert Gray, who promises to change the state's stance. But the odds don't look good for him, especially when you consider Gray has reportedly spent just about $50 to $60 on his campaign and even forgot to mention he was running for his governor to his own family.
In Virginia, Democrats would need to gain two State Senate seats in order to move its legislative in favor of expanding Medicaid. The leading Republican opponent, however, is none other than incumbent Dick Black, famed for sending a congratulatory letter to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad as well as small plastic pink fetuses to state senators with the passive aggressive note, "Would you kill this child?" as they prepared to vote on an abortion bill.
Medicaid was expanded in Kentucky, but now gubernatorial candidate Matt Bevin wants to reverse the program, which would take away health insurance from 400,000 people, according to the Associated Press. Oliver's team, however, did some digging and found that Bevin received a $100,000 grant from the state of Connecticut after his family's bell factory burned down because "no company would insure the buildings for a price that made sense," he told The Hartford Courant. Well, according to Oliver, that should sound a little familiar.
So, let's take a break from our Election 2016 craze and think about what's at stake this Tuesday. Check out the full segment below.
Image: Last Week Tonight With John Oliver/HBO