Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) announced on Wednesday that he will turn down Obamacare’s optional expansion of the Medicaid program, which makes him the thirteenth Republican leader to refuse to extend public health insurance to additional low-income Americans. Six GOP governors — in Arizona, Michigan, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio and Nevada — have expressed support for expanding Medicaid, and the rest still need to decide what they want to do about that particular provision of the health reform law.
And even though most GOP leaders claim that expanding Medicaid would be too costly, they’re actually being lobbied by hospital companies, economists, and health care experts who all say the financial benefits — since the federal government will fully fund the first several years of expansion — are too good to turn down:
“It’s fascinating, because on the political level, it’s a classic clash between money and politics,” said Dan Mendelson, CEO of Avalere health advisory company. He said he and his 170 advisers working with the health care industry are hearing plenty about expansion.
“It sets up a really difficult tension between the Republican governors and the hospitals, but there’s an increasing level of political cover being given to the governors to expand their programs,” Mendelson said. [...]
In Florida, a recent poll found that 60% of residents would like to see Medicaid expanded, Mendelson said. Several economic studies have found the states may benefit both by federal funds going into local economies, as well as taxes from those sales going back into the coffers of local government.
The significant federal funds allocated to states that choose to expand Medicaid led the hospital industry to wonder if governors were bluffing about rejecting the expansion. That quickly proved not to be the case, as stubborn GOP politicians in some of the states with the highest rates of uninsurance in the nation still refused to cooperate with the health care reform law.
Diverse coalitions across the country have partnered to pressure resistant lawmakers to expand their Medicaid programs. The growing list of GOP governors who have accepted the optional expansion over the past few weeks seemed to signal that political deadlock may soon give way to reality, but the remaining Republican leaders may buck that trend when they eventually announce their own decisions.