Nevada Governor Is The First Republican Leader To Agree To Expand Medicaid

Gov. Brian Sandoval (R-NV) told the Associated Press on Tuesday that he plans to accept Obamacare’s expansion of the Medicaid program to extend coverage to additional low-income residents in his state. Sandoval is the first Republican governor to commit to expanding Medicaid, as GOP leaders across the country have continued to resist that crucial provision of the health care reform law despite several reports confirming the economic benefits from the provision.

The governor acknowledged that even though he remains a staunch opponent to the Affordable Care Act, expanding the state’s eligibility will help tens of thousands of people who would not otherwise been able to access health coverage. About 22 percent of his residents are currently uninsured, and participating in the Medicaid expansion will allow Nevada to add 78,000 low-income residents to its rolls:

“All in all, it makes the best sense for the state to opt in,” he said. “This is a way for me to protect these people.” […]

Sandoval scoffed at being compared to other Republican governors who have opposed expanding Medicaid or setting up health insurance exchanges, something he agreed to two years ago.

“I have to look at Nevada,” he said. “I’m not going to compare myself to any other governor. I have to look at the consequences of this very complicated law.”

And since the federal government will cover the cost of the expansion for the first several years, Sandoval noted that expanding his state’s Medicaid program will actually save Nevada money. The state will be able to put $16 million in federal funding toward its mental health programs, which otherwise would have been funded though Nevada’s general fund.


Even though Sabdoval declined to compare himself to the other GOP governors who are rejecting the Medicaid dollars, those lawmakers could benefit from taking a page out of his book. Some of the loudest Obamacare opponents are Republican governors from sates with the highest rates of uninsurance in the nation — but unlike Sandoval, they would rather prioritize their political opposition to the health reform law over the strategies that would benefit their poorest residents.

In addition to Nevada, 17 other states led by Democratic governors are planning to expand their Medicaid programs.