The public health community is nothing if not determined to keep COVID on everyone’s mind, so much so that it is now playing up the alleged horrors of “long COVID,” the symptoms of which are vague enough that just about anyone could probably claim to have it.
There is, however, a genuine long-COVID crisis. But it has nothing to do with the virus. At least not directly. It’s the fact that Democrats used the pandemic to quietly but dramatically expand government dependency, knowing that once in place, these expansions will be hard to uproot. Republicans, naturally, were clueless about what the left was up to.
Take Medicaid. From March 2020 through October 2022, enrollment in this program exploded by more than 20 million, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. That’s an almost 29% increase, and it came after Medicaid enrollment had been on the decline thanks to the booming economy under President Donald Trump.
The reason for the massive increase was simple: As part of its panicked COVID response, Congress essentially banned states from kicking anyone off Medicaid, even if they were no longer eligible. This provision lasted as long as there was an officially declared public health emergency. The feds gave states extra money to help cover the cost.
Not surprisingly, President Joe Biden kept extending the public health emergency, which he now claims will be lifted on May 11.
The result is that more than 90 million Americans are currently getting “free” health insurance, with the costs paid for with borrowed money.
If you think the surge in Medicaid enrollment was a surprise, or an accident, you need a history lesson.
Democrats have been expanding Medicaid for decades. Obamacare turbocharged it, with enrollment climbing 20 million thanks to that law’s inducement to states to expand eligibility.
The left has since been trying to get a “public option” introduced into Obamacare that would expand Medicaid even more by opening up the program to those willing to pay a small premium. The leftist American Prospect called such Medicaid “buy-ins” a “viable path to universal coverage.”
So, what now? Will lawmakers let millions lose access to health care?
As Kaiser Health News put it: “States are preparing to remove millions of people from Medicaid as protections put in place early in the COVID-19 pandemic expire. The upheaval, which begins in April, will put millions of low-income Americans at risk of losing health coverage, threatening their access to care and potentially exposing them to large medical bills.”
Do not be at all surprised when the left demands that these benefits have to be extended.
Medicaid is just one way Democrats tried to turn COVID into a government dependency machine.
Congress also boosted monthly food stamp benefits for everyone enrolled, regardless of their income, and banned work requirements that 28 states had enacted.
As a result, the number of people on food stamps jumped from 35.7 million in 2019 to nearly 42 million in 2021 and was still above 41 million by the end of last year. As with Medicaid enrollment, the number of people on food stamps had been in decline in the years before COVID.
Naturally, these and other actions were advertised as temporary stop-gap measures to help people cope with the massive disruption caused by government lockdowns (which were themselves a pointless overreaction).
But as Milton Friedman observed, there’s nothing as permanent as a temporary government program.
Warren Bragdon and Hayden Dublois of the Foundation for Government Accountability put it this way: “Lawmakers surely thought these policies would be temporary, but Democrats discovered they could move toward a permanently larger welfare state by repeatedly extending the emergency.”
And so, the nation has taken another big step toward a socialist Nirvana. No wonder Biden thinks the state of the union is so good.
— Written by the I&I Editorial Board