Dalrymple On 182% Increase In Medicaid Expansion Cost: "It Was The Right Thing To Do"

Yesterday I emailed Governor Jack Dalrymple’s spokesman Jeff Zent to ask for a comment on the news that the projected cost of the Obamacare Medicaid expansion here in North Dakota had gone up 182 percent. Zent called me this afternoon to say that Dalrymple was too busy to answer my questions about the increased costs, but he did offer me some spin on comments Dalrymple had made when the Legislature was debating it in 2013, calling it a “no cost” program.

You see, Dalrymple was only talking about the cost to the state at the time, Zent told me. Because that’s a distinction with a difference, I guess? The last time I checked, we’re all paying federal taxes too and the state is set to start picking up costs for this program by 2017.

There’s most definitely a cost, and it’s a lot more than we were told.

Anyway, it turns out Dalrymple did have time to comment on the cost projection increase…to Forum Communications reporter Mike Nowtazki (it’s well known in media circles that the governor doesn’t like talking to his critics).

Dalrymple’s reaction to a 182 percent cost overrun? No. Big. Deal.

North Dakota will spend millions more than originally projected for Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, a tab that could top $30 million per year by 2020 based on current projections.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple, who pushed for the state to pursue Medicaid expansion in 2013, stands by the decision to expand the health program for low-income residents.

“Rising health care costs are certainly a concern, but we still feel that the expansion is fiscally manageable and that it was the right thing to do for North Dakota,” he said Thursday through spokesman Jeff Zent.

Dalrymple’s cavalier attitude about this cost overrun is surprising given how hesitant lawmakers were to approve this expansion in 2013 when the governor included it in his executive budget. House Majority Leader Al Carlson (R-Fargo) gave an impassioned speech shortly before that vote (video below) in which he warned that once the state expanded this program there was no going back.

“When you go through this door you’re starting a program, you’re changing the rules, and you’re going to fund something you’re not going to go back from,” he said.

I wonder how many of the lawmakers who voted for this bill would have liked to know that the cost estimate they were given for the expansion was off by 182 percent?

This is beginning to look like a big mistake for Republicans both fiscally and politically, but thanks to Dalrymple it has Republican fingerprints all over it, so they’re just going to have to swallow hard and accept it.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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