It was easy to predict how liberal New Yorkers would react to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s announcement that the city would begin providing free health care to the Big Apple’s uninsured. The mayor’s supporters cheered this as a great leap forward for public health, and they had locked and loaded their responses to criticisms from those of us who worry about profligate, overreaching government.
The program, dubbed NYC Care, wouldn’t be too expensive, defenders insisted, and, in fact, would save the city money in the long run. And besides, the cost doesn’t matter — what matters is that this program will improve the health of the city’s neediest residents.
There was only one problem: None of this is true.
We don’t need experts to tell us that giving away free health care will cost more money than it saves — that’s just common sense.
We could use experts, however, to tell us the real impact a program like NYC Care would have on a population’s overall health. Fortunately, experts have already done that. Unfortunately for the mayor, the results aren’t in his favor.
In 2008, well before President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act expanded Medicaid nationwide, the people of Oregon decided to do just that, passing a ballot initiative that used a lottery to give Medicaid to 30,000 low-income adults. This decision gave birth to the Oregon Health Insurance Experiment, which sought to determine exactly what impact, if any, expanding Medicaid would have on a population’s health.