The Daily Show Vilifies Opponents of Medicaid Expansion; 'Hard Not to Seem Like a Total [Bleep]'

Once again, The Daily Show rolled out its conservative-hating schtick and mocked opponents of ObamaCare's Medicaid expansion in a simplistic liberal attack on Thursday.

Correspondent Al Madrigal put it point-blank to Ashley Landess, who opposes the expansion in South Carolina: "It's hard not to seem like a total [bleep] when you're saying this stuff to people. When this guy has asthma, and he's all (wheezes), you know, it's hard to argue that," he said of a subject who needed the access to Medicaid to get tests for his asthma. He treated supporters of the expansion with kid gloves; opponents like Landess were vilified.

"So bravo Texas, Tennessee, Florida, and all the others who stood up to the 5 million working poor desperate for help," Madrigal reviled the states who refused to expand Medicaid. However, he had this laughable exchange with Medicaid advocate Dr. Harry Heiman over the cost of the expansion:

HEIMAN: The Congressional Budget Office looked at the cost of ObamaCare over ten years, and showed that it would reduce the federal deficit.
 
MADRIGAL: And you trust the Congressional Budget Office to estimate the budget of Congress? (Chuckles)

Madrigal was supporting Heiman's opinion by playfully knocking him. The Daily Show was basically saying that the CBO is accurate and all those who believe otherwise are fools.

Regardless, the opposition to Medicaid expansion had nowhere close to a fighting chance in the report, given the emotional appeal to low-income sick people to have access to Medicaid. Landess tried to argue about the cost, but something was conspicuously missing:

MADRIGAL: (on camera) It's eventually going to cost how much?

LANDESS: The idea is that the federal government will fund 100 percent – in the first three years.

MADRIGAL: So zero dollars, you guys can't afford zero dollars?

LANDESS: We're 17 trillion dollars in debt at the federal level.

The federal government may pay for the expansion, but in the short run. As illustrated last year in states like Virginia, the feds would match the states less and less as more people enrolled in Medicaid.

Plus, as Avik Roy and Grace-Marie Turner argued, research shows that Medicaid patients actually fare worse than the uninsured or those with private insurance "because the Medicaid program pays doctors and hospitals far less than private insurers do."

However, the Daily Show's demagoguery had no room for this detailed argument opposing its liberal interests. 

Below is a transcript of the segment:

COMEDY CENTRAL
THE DAILY SHOW
2/27/14
[11:11 p.m. EST]

JON STEWART: In 2012 the Supreme Court ruled that the Affordable Care Act did not destroy the country or the Constitution. But the Court did allow states to opt out of the Medicaid expansion. How do the citizens who turned down that federal money feel now? I bet they feel good. Al Madrigal reports.

(Video Clip)

AL MADRIGAL: ObamaCare was designed to do more than just eliminate jobs. It also gives states the option of taking federal funds to expand Medicaid for their working poor. Luckily 19 states were smart enough to say no. Leaving just a few million people without coverage. Ashley Landess of the South Carolina Policy Council explains why it was the right call for her state.

ASHLEY LANDESS, president, The South Carolina Policy Council: First of all, the cost of Medicaid are going to skyrocket. It's not a question of whether this is a great plan. Even if it were, we can't afford it.

MADRIGAL: (on camera) It's eventually going to cost how much?

LANDESS: The idea is that the federal government will fund 100 percent – in the first three years.

MADRIGAL: So zero dollars, you guys can't afford zero dollars?

LANDESS: We're 17 trillion dollars in debt at the federal level. And even if we stop thinking about the money for a minute, does any plan that starts with "my congressman had a great idea" ever turn out to be a great idea?

Dr. HARRY HEIMAN, Satcher Health Leadership Institute: You mean like civil rights? Voting rights?

MADRIGAL: I'll give you those.

HEIMAN: Clean air. Clean water.

MADRIGAL: That's Medicaid expansion advocate Dr. Harry Heiman obviously struggling with the question.

HEIMAN: Federal highway system. Immunizations.

MADRIGAL: Name one more.

HEIMAN: Expanding Medicaid.

MADRIGAL: Aha! Not good.

HEIMAN: Expanding access to quality health care is not good? Mammograms, colonoscopies, pap smears, not good?

MADRIGAL: Okay, okay, so even if this Medicaid expansion could save people's lives, we can't afford it.

HEIMAN: The Congressional Budget Office looked at the cost of ObamaCare over ten years, and showed that it would reduce the federal deficit.
 
MADRIGAL: And you trust the Congressional Budget Office to estimate the budget of Congress? (Chuckles)

(Voice over) And he's not the only one who drank the Medi-Kool-Aid. In states that have rejected it, the majority of citizens foolishly want the expansion. Ashley Landess explains.

LANDESS: I understand that we are not delivering the most popular message here. But certainly low-income families who are really struggling are going to be hard-pressed to understand all of the nuances.

MADRIGAL: (on camera) They're just so busy being needy they don't knows what's going on.

(Voice over) I decided to talk to these misguided Medicaid want-to-have's who are selfishly hoping for help.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: I have environmentally induced asthma and don't have any way of getting tests done.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: My wife has degenerative disk disorder.

MADRIGAL: (on camera) I know you feel like you want Medicaid, but Medicaid expansion hasn't been approved in your state. And it's a good thing. It's better for America.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: That seems like the most ridiculous thing to say.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: How is it better for America, for people who have treatable conditions, to become permanently crippled?

MADRIGAL: We can't afford it. And your wife – should just sit. And then take it easy.

It's hard not to seem like a total [bleep] when you're saying this stuff to people. When this guy has asthma, and he's all (wheezes), you know, it's hard to argue that.

LANDESS: I think that he can probably get treatment for his asthma.

MADRIGAL: Okay, I'll just tell him probably.

LANDESS: I don't know his specific situation, but I do know that doctors don't turn away patients in need.

MADRIGAL: Asthma guy, I just checked. You can probably get treatment. Okay? You're good.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: I tried to go to the walk-in clinic. It doesn't work. So instead I have been in the emergency room seven times in the last two years. Who picks up that bill? You're asking me to live my life in the emergency room.

MADRIGAL: (voice over) The problem is, it's hard to talk about this stuff with the real people actually affected by it. Luckily, I had an idea.

(On camera) Way better. Way better.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: It's easier if you can pretend what you're saying doesn't affect real people.

MADRIGAL: Exactly, smiley face, you hit it.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: But we are, we're real people.

MADRIGAL: I was talking to smiley face.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: They're taking an ideological stand at our expense.

MADRIGAL: All right, no kitten would ever say that.

(Voice over) Problem solved. So bravo Texas, Tennessee, Florida, and all the others who stood up to the 5 million working poor desperate for help. But just in case you ever have doubts, this is for you.

(On camera) Hi, I'm Al Madrigal. Medicaid expansion is a horrible idea. But don't take it from me.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: I would love to have treatment for my asthma.

MADRIGAL: (whispers) But I know that there's more at stake.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: I'm not going to say that.

MADRIGAL: Rejecting Medicaid expansion is good for all of us.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: But it's not.

MADRIGAL: Okay.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Well actually, America can afford it.

MADRIGAL: Okay. I want you to just say what I [bleep] tell you to.

You want to be in this or not?

We have to keep Washington out of his health care.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: I want Washington in my health care.

MADRIGAL: Watch, you want to see how it's done? Hi. I would like to have treatment for my wife's degenerative bone disorder thing, but I realize there's more at stake.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Degenerative bone thing? You are such an [bleep]. You know that?

(Laughter)

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014