During an appearance on Greta Van Sustern’s Fox News program Tuesday evening, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) reiterated his well-known opposition to all things Obamacare, particularly the reform law’s optional expansion of the public Medicaid program for low-income Americans.
But while defending Texas’ rejection of the expansion, Perry turned to a rather odd argument to justify his decision — claiming that the Obama Homeland Security Department’s release of thousands of nonviolent immigrants from detention centers somehow proves that the federal government cannot be trusted to fund states’ Medicaid expansions:
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, now, let me turn the question to you. You mentioned Medicaid expansion, and you had said, I think as long ago as July, that you were not going to accept the offer to expand Medicaid, which is the federal government pays for. Governor Rick Scott of Florida has changed his mind. Governor Chris Christie — I don’t know if he changed his mind, but accepting that Medicaid. What do you say to — why do you think those two governors are doing it? What’s — and why aren’t you?
PERRY: Well, we looked at this rather intently. The legislature just over the course of the last 24 hours in Texas and the Republican caucus overwhelmingly support the position of not expanding Medicaid. It is a broken system. We have asked the federal government for years to allow us the flexibility to be able to put these programs into place, but the fact is, it’s a broken system. It’s going to cost trillions of dollars to implement this program. But Texans are not going to be blackmailed into expanding a program that then the federal government is telling us they’re going to give us all this free money. Greta, they can’t keep criminals in jail today, much less be able to have extra money to pass out to these states. So the idea that money is going to be available for expanded Medicaid is a pipe dream.
Even aside from the fact that Perry’s argument constitutes a total non sequitur, his portrayal of DHS’s actions is also highly misleading. Earlier this week, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano — flanked by two former Republican DHS secretaries — explained that the vast majority of the releases were a result of routine movement in detention facilities and unrelated to any government-induced fiscal policy, and that the best method of ensuring border security would be for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
Perry also repeats a common right-wing talking point that the federal government’s promise to provide the funding for states’ Medicaid expansions is too good to be true, and that the Obama Administration will eventually be forced to go back on its word. But the historical data shows that Perry is dead wrong. The federal government has honored its obligations to funding state Medicaid programs with remarkable consistency, even as the public insurance system has enrolled millions of additional Americans since its inception. The only exception to this occurred between 2009 and 2012, since the stimulus package passed in response to the 2008 global financial crisis “included a deliberate and temporary boost to Medicaid funding to help states buffer against the recession” and “was never meant to be a permanent increase to Medicaid federal match rates” — unlike Obamacare, which is intended to be exactly that.