Doubting Thomas


To the editor,


State Senator Fred Thomas recently published an editorial in the Tribune. His aim was to defend himself and other Republican legislators who turned down Medicaid expansion in Montana. 

Despite the bogus statistics Senator Thomas tossed around, here are the facts. According to the Congressional Budget Office, if the Medicaid expansion were allowed in our state, it would be funded 93 percent by the federal government over the next nine years. Meanwhile, over the same period it would save the state more money than it would have to kick in to Medicaid by drastically lowering the cost of uncompensated care. 

But Thomas, citing a study of Oregon Medicaid recipients, claimed that the program is worthless. “We’re spending a lot of taxpayer money,” wrote Thomas, “and getting absolutely no result.”

The two-year study Thomas referred to measured only three health criteria: blood pressure, cholesterol, and glycated hemoglobin levels. These levels weren’t significantly lowered among the Medicaid recipients in the study. We should notice, however, that this is a pretty narrow measure of health outcomes over a short time period and among only a small sample of patients. And it hasn’t been replicated – it’s a one-off study. 

Thomas ignored, because he didn’t want to acknowledge, other findings in the study.

One such finding was that the Medicaid recipients experienced improved mental health. Their rate of depression was thirty percent lower than those who remained uninsured. This was probably because having Medicaid gave them peace of mind. They knew that catastrophic illness wouldn’t ruin them physically and financially.

The study noted that Medicaid recipients also benefitted from access to preventive medicine, prescription drug coverage, and broader access to doctors and hospital services. Their diseases were caught earlier and treated more effectively than they would’ve been if they hadn’t been on Medicaid. 

What Fred Thomas and other Republicans really dislike about Medicaid is that it offers poor people a way out of their condition. They don’t think poor people deserve an alternative to having their serious medical conditions treated in emergency rooms by doctors who don’t know their medical histories.

Well-heeled legislators like Senator Thomas constantly disparage poor people as “takers” undeserving of our compassion and support. That’s why they’re so eager to cut food stamps (SNAP), block minimum wage laws, and reduce subsidies for school lunches. Making Medicaid less available to the poor is, for them, a no-brainer.


Richard Turner