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Progressive group’s website calls governor a murderer

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Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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A liberal activist group with heavy union backing has created a website calling Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett a killer for his decision to opt out of Medicaid expansion under Obamacare.

TomCorbettKilled4PeopleToday.com is operated by Keystone Progress, a progressive advocacy organization.

As of Thursday, Keystone Progress listed 204 as the “total estimated number of deaths since January 1, 2014 because Tom Corbett won’t allow the expansion of Medicaid in Pennsylvania,” according to the organization’s website.

“According to researchers at Harvard Medical School and the City University of New York, there will be as many as 1,491 deaths due to the lack of Medicaid expansion in Pennsylvania,” the site asserts.

Site users are also asked to sign a letter which will be sent to Corbett and other state lawmakers.

The 1,491 death total statistic was the high-water estimate taken from a research paper titled “Opting Out of Medicaid Expansion: The Health And Financial Impacts”.

At the low end, the researchers determined that 398 people would avoid death if Medicaid was expanded.

But the methods behind those figures have been called into question.

The rounded-up figure is based upon a study conducted by Benjamin Sommers, an economist with the Harvard School of Public Health. (RELATED: Harvard study: Medicaid actually increases ER visits)

Sommers’ study looked at the effect of Medicaid expansion on mortality in three states — New York, Maine, and Arizona. Only New York showed a statistically significant decline in deaths due to Medicaid expansion. Maine showed a statistically insignificant increase in mortality, while Arizona showed a statistically insignificant decrease in mortality.

The low-end estimate of 398 deaths from forgoing Medicaid expansion was based on a study that looked at health improvements for people covered by private insurance rather than Medicaid.

“In light of the foregoing, I can state with great confidence that the authors have grossly overestimated any mortality gains to be had from Medicaid expansion,” wrote Chris Conover, a health policy scholar with the American Enterprise Institute, in Forbes.

Other studies have shown limited benefits to increased Medicaid coverage. One, a natural experiment done in Oregon, found no significant improvement in health outcomes between people covered by Medicaid compared to those who were not. The study did find some improvements to patient mental health, however.

Some research has indicated that because a low percentage of doctors take Medicaid patients because of small reimbursement rates, health care outcomes for people on the program are no better than for the uninsured.

The Oregon Medicaid experiment also found that Medicaid increased the rate of visits to the ER, despite claims that Medicaid coverage would decrease the need for emergency care. (RELATED: Fourth Georgia hospital closes due to Obamacare cuts)

Pennsylvania is one of 25 states that opted out of Medicaid. Obamacare initially called for automatic Medicaid expansion to all states, but the Supreme Court ruled that forcing states to accept the expansion was unconstitutional.

Corbett has proposed a different plan to increase health coverage in the state. The plan, which is awaiting federal approval, would use federal Medicaid dollars to subsidize private insurance plans for around 500,000 people.

But Keystone Progress, along with other Obamacare advocates, want the full expansion.

“Expand Medicaid now without any gimmicks or conditions,” reads Keystone Progress’s gimmicky “killer” website.

“This sort of extreme rhetoric is hardly new for Keystone Progress, and they always seem to resort to personal attacks rather than address the issues,” the Commonwealth Foundation’s Nathan Benefield told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Does it matter to them that Medicaid provides low quality care, or that one in three Pennsylvania doctors already won’t take Medicaid patients? Not if it gets in the way of good attack hit piece against Gov. Corbett.”

Benefield also pointed to Keystone Progress’s big union backing.

According to MediaTrackers, Keystone Progress has board members from Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the AFL-CIO, United Steelworkers, and the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA).

Keystone Progress has also received funding from SEIU and PSEA, as well as from two larger progressive organizations, Democracy Alliance and ProgressNow, according to MediaTrackers. ProgressNow has 20 other state partners besides Keystone Progress under its umbrella.

The lead researcher for the study cited by Keystone Progress was hesitant to weigh in on the group’s strongly-worded website.

“How people use such findings is something we cannot control, nor do we wish to comment on how individual persons or groups choose to interpret them,” Dr. Samuel Dickman told TheDCNF. “We can affirm, however, that the Supreme Court’s decision to allow states to opt out of Medicaid expansion will have adverse health and financial consequences in such states, including Pennsylvania.”

ProgressNow and Keystone Progress did not respond to TheDCNF’s requests for comment.

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