The big headlines tell us that governments from Raleigh to Washington, D.C. are revving up plans to do more stuff. But the small headlines remind us government is seldom able to do stuff cheaply, competently, or even honestly.
NC Medicaid audit
Speaking of flagrant incompetence in handling the basic details of a government program, a recent state auditor’s report blasted Medicaid in NC.
The reported sampled 10 counties to see how well they processed Medicaid applications. The report concluded most of the most of the counties failed to do a good job of processing the applications accurately and quickly, and that the state Department of Health and Human Services did failed to do much to help.
The worst results were:
- Guilford County made mistakes in 18.8 percent of new applications;
- Wake County handled new applications too slowly 26 percent of the time;
- Mecklenburg County made mistakes 23.2 percent of the time when people were reapplying; and
- Guilford County handled reapplications too slowly 12.4 percent of the time.
Though that’s a sample, as you see the worst problems affect the biggest counties, thus the most people. Who knows how bad things are in the 90 other counties? The program is so messed up it may be impossible to sort out the situation for the whole state. Worst of all, these kinds of Medicaid snafus have persisted for years in North Carolina.
What do we learn from this? First of all, liberals claim to know that a huge number of North Carolinians are eligible for Medicaid. But county and state governments that actually handle the program have trouble figuring that out properly, even for people already in the program. So how can the professors and politicians really know how many people should be on the program?
Second, new Gov. Roy Cooper has called for a massive expansion of Medicaid. That’s right: Government can’t even properly care for the program as it is. Yet the governor and his allies want to add, oh, a half million people to the rolls.
Student loan stats
Take the seemingly simple task of revealing how many former college students are actually paying back their student loans. In January, the U.S. Department of Education claimed a “coding error” had caused a website to grossly inflate the loans’ repayment rate.
The statistic at collegescorecard.ed.gov reports the percentage of borrowers who have not defaulted and have repaid at least $1 of their loan principal.
Note: That isn’t about young people who are paying off their loans in jig time. This is about the very low benchmark of people who haven’t actually defaulted, and have paid – let me underline this – just one measly dollar on the principal to be counted as “paying off” their loans.
News reports pointed out that the site had overestimated these repayment rates by up to 20 percentage points. When corrected, the three-year repayment rate dropped from 61 percent to 41 percent, for instance. Rates improved slightly at longer terms. But for the typical college, fewer than half of its former students who avoided defaulting paid even $1 toward their principal loan balances three years and five years after leaving school.
What makes this even worse, according to The Wall Street Journal, is that the federal government used the original stats as an excuse to load onerous regulations on for-profit institutions because such schools had repayment rates under 50 percent. The new figures, however, show plenty of public and private colleges have the same dismal performance.
‘Bullet train’ cost overruns
Civitas’ Brian Balfour recently explained why people likely will avoid using a proposed Durham-Orange County light-rail line. Another timely news story underlines a key element of transit projects: They almost always overshoot their cost estimates.
California is proposing a “bullet train” to go from San Francisco to Los Angeles. But the Los Angeles Times recently uncovered a secret federal report that concluded the project might cost taxpayers 50 percent more than the original estimates — $3.6 billion more. And, the paper reported, that’s just for the easiest part of the route, through the state’s Central Valley.
Moreover, that section was supposed to be finished this year. But, surprise, the confidential federal report said section of tracks may not be finished until 2024.
That’s right, the easiest part of the project may be 50 percent more expensive than expected, and will be at least seven or so years late.
The government just isn’t very good at even its most basic tasks. Remember that when politicians in Raleigh, Washington or your own town start yammering about all the wonderful things they’re going to do.