Medicaid Is Destroying Public Education

One of the truly unheralded disasters caused by Obamacare is the sharp reduction in spending on public education as Medicaid costs eat up an ever-larger share of state budgets.

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When Obama took office, the proportion of state spending that went to Medicaid was smaller than that for public education (K-12). In 2008, states spent 22.0 percent of their funds on education and only 20.5 percent on Medicaid. But now the situation has reversed and health care has vaulted ahead of education spending in the states. This year, only 20.0 percent of state funds will go to K-12 schools while almost a quarter — 24.5 percent — will go to Medicaid.

And the situation is going to get worse in a hurry. The increase in Medicaid spending entirely reflects growth in the “old Medicaid” program — that which was in force prior to Obamacare. The new Medicaid requirement of Obamacare (that states admit everyone up to 133 percent of the poverty level into the program) has brought 8 million new Medicaid recipients onto the rolls. These new Medicaid patients are not included in the data for current spending since the feds absorb 100 percent of the cost for the first three years. But, by fiscal 2017 states have to pay 10 percent of the costs and, after 2020 there is no provision for extra federal funding. Presumably, the state share of Medicaid will go back to the 1/3 level most states have to bear at present.

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The net effect of these changes is to stop any progress toward better funding of schools. Whether one agrees that more funds produce better schools, we can all agree that cuts produce worse ones. Yet by opting for health care for the near-poor over education, we have enacted priorities we may live to regret.

These priorities put welfare over learning. Remember that the new Medicaid patients are, by definition, neither poor nor young nor old. Boys and girls under 18 are covered up to four times the poverty level by the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. The elderly, of course, have Medicare. And those who live below the poverty line were largely covered under the old Medicaid system.

We have put the needs of low-income adults for health care above those of children for education. These priorities — reminiscent of most Third World countries — do not auger well for our future as a nation or the future of our children.

Yet, as this gross reallocation of national priorities away from education and toward health care has been under way, we have heard not a peep of protest from teachers unions or other education groups. Most, indeed, have been fervent supporters of Obamacare and clamored for their states to expand Medicaid as provided in the bill.

Have they realized that they are gutting the schools?

Do they get it that there will be no real increase in teacher pay or cut in class sizes as a result of the Obamacare expansion of Medicaid?

Education is to be put on hold for the next decade — a true legacy of President Obama.

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