Virginia Republican: It Can Be Better To Be Uninsured Than On Medicaid

Lt. Governor candidate Pete Snyder (R-VA)

Lt. Governor candidate Pete Snyder (R-VA)

Wealthy investor and Republican candidate for Virginia Lt. Governor Pete Snyder released a new campaign ad Wednesday criticizing bipartisan efforts to expand Medicaid under Obamacare. In the ad he suggests that poor Virginians might actually be better off uninsured than covered by the Medicaid program.

Snyder cites a study by “Jim DeMint and the conservative Heritage Foundation” to claim the expansion would cost Virginia “more than $900 million over the next eight eight years alone” — a figure that even Gov. Bob McDonnell’s (R) administration disputes. He then warns:

It gets worse. Along with the unprecedented spending, President Obama’s “free money” will force more and more Virginians into Medicaid, a costly program that we all know desperately needs reform. Cause get this: In some cases it hurts the very people it’s meant to help. In fact, a University of Virginia study showed in some cases it’s actually better to be uninsured than to be on Medicaid.

The ad offers no citation for this claim, but attributes the text “increased risk of adjusted mortality” to the University in general.

Watch the video:

In a guest post on the conservative Virginia blog Bearing Drift, Snyder identifies the study in question: a 2010 report by UVA doctors and others. (Snyder also elevates the suspect $902 million price tag claim to “$902 billion,” in an apparent typo in that post.)

That study merely found that — by a difference within the margin of error — Medicaid patients had a fractionally higher in-hospital mortality rate after major surgery than uninsured Americans did between 2003 and 2007. Even with Snyder’s heavy caveats, this does not match his claim. Given that those without insurance during that period were often young and healthy people — and were, by definition, wealthier than those who qualified for Medicaid coverage — it is to be expected that the poorest Americans might have slightly worse medical outcomes.

Moreover, those on Medicaid get good medical care. It provides cost-efficient coverage for lower-income patients who “face elevated health risks” and offers a broad range of services, “including preventive care and special services needed by those with disabilities or other chronic conditions” — at levels “comparable to access provided under private health insurance and far better than access available to the uninsured.” In fact, a study by the Government Accountability Office showed Medicaid beneficiaries were just as happy with their health care as those with private insurance.

Snyder, who claims in the ad to be an “entrepreneur” and “not a career politician,” has been a longtime political operative, working as a Fox News contributor and as senior political director for Republican pollster Frank Luntz, a key leader in the Republican opposition strategy during the Obamacare debate.