Republican Governors Challenge Obama On Medicaid Expansion

Our guest bloggers are Maura Calsyn, Emily Oshima, and Lindsay Rosenthal.

As supporters of health reform, we keep hoping that Republicans will finally stop rehashing the same political fights about health care reform and start working to implement the law. And when we saw that the Republican governors submitted a letter to the President about implementation of the law, we thought it might be a good sign.

We were wrong. The letter is just political posturing and another attempt to stall health reform. It repeats the same old, inaccurate attacks on health reform before listing numerous questions that Republicans claim they need answered before they can move forward and implement health reform.

It makes sense that states might have questions about health reform implementation. The law expands Medicaid – a joint federal/state program – to cover 17 million more Americans. And states have first crack at designing and implementing new marketplaces – called exchanges – that will provide individuals and small businesses with one-stop, streamlined shopping for health insurance. If they decide not to, the federal government will step in with a federally-run exchange.

But the letter is not a serious request for information. In the two years since Obamacare became law, Republican-led states have done next to nothing to implement the law, even as most have accepted federal funding for that very purpose. Instead, the governors sat back and crossed their fingers that the Supreme Court would strike down the entire law. And now they are trying to use this request as cover for their continued inaction.

It’s difficult to summarize all that is misleading and hypocritical about the letter. It claims that states cannot make critical decisions about expanding Medicaid coverage or developing exchanges without more information from the President. But in the two weeks since the Supreme Court’s decision, a number of Republican governors have already rejected the Medicaid expansion. Why haven’t they waited for the President’s answers before making decisions that will impact millions of lives?

If more information is necessary before deciding whether a state can build its own exchange, how is it possible that many other states have made significant progress in this area? The letter even asks for extensions in applying for federal help with exchange planning – even though it’s the governors who created this time crunch.

And how can the governors keep a straight face when they plead with the President for “flexibility” while they simultaneously complain that they are “essentially being tasked with shouldering all of the responsibility” for implementing health care reform? With flexibility comes responsibility.

But this letter shows that they still aren’t accepting this responsibility. And until they do, we’ll have to keep waiting for Republican governors to roll up their sleeves and get to work implementing the law.