clear
Monday July 6th, 2015 5:13AM

Politics color governors' decisions on Medicaid

By The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Partisan politics are coloring governors' decisions about whether to expand Medicaid in their states, affecting billions of dollars and thousands of low-income people.

The question of whether they receive Medicaid coverage may have little to do with need, and much to do with the way their states vote in governors' races, including primaries.

Every Democratic governor has called for accepting larger-than-usual federal subsidies to expand Medicaid, the government health insurance program for the poor. The only three who failed were blocked by Republican state legislators.

Most of the 30 Republican governors have turned down Medicaid expansion, and the federal dollars that would come with it. Some who face potential tea party challengers in next year's GOP primaries have rejected advice to broaden the program, which they call a costly federal overreach.

But a few Republican governors dismiss those arguments. They have accepted billions in federal money to cover more people with Medicaid. It would shortchange their constituents to do otherwise, they say, noting that workers everywhere pay the federal taxes now up for redistribution.

Of the eight Republican governors who will expand Medicaid, six are from states carried by President Barack Obama. One is New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez.

"My job is not to play party politics, but to implement this law in a way that best serves New Mexico," Martinez told state legislators.

In a similar vein, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval told a newspaper editorial board, "I couldn't sit here and defend to any of you $16 million that just went away because of `principle.'"

At least 20 Republican governors have turned down the federal money and declined to expand Medicaid, although a few are considering other options. Many say government is too big already, and they suggest Congress will break the promise to keep paying a huge share of the cost.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal says his state's residents should pass up federal aid even if other states take it. "Our refusal to expand Medicaid," he says, "does in fact help to reduce the growth in federal spending."

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a 2012 GOP presidential candidate who may try again, called Medicaid expansion a brazen intrusion into state sovereignty. "I will not be party to socializing health care and bankrupting my state," he said.

But North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple, a Republican who agreed to expand Medicaid, told reporters: "We try to leave the politics out in the hallway when we make these decisions. ... Are you going to allow your people to have additional Medicaid money that comes at no cost to us, or aren't you?"

Unlike many governors, Daylrymple won't face voters next year, but in 2016 instead.

The other Republican governor to expand Medicaid in a state Obama lost, Jan Brewer of Arizona, is barred from running again.

A different political dynamic applies to Virginia and Wisconsin, which declined to expand Medicaid although Obama carried them twice. Both states are led by GOP governors who were, or still are, considering presidential campaigns and their conservative-dominated primaries.

Virginia's new Democratic governor may seek changes when he takes office next month.

States that decline to expand Medicaid "are forgoing billions of dollars in federal funds, while residents in their states are contributing to the cost of the expansions in other states," said a study financed by the Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation.

The report estimated the net losses, by 2022, at $9.2 billion for Texas, $5 billion for Florida and $2.6 billion for North Carolina. All are Republican-led states not expanding Medicaid.

Medicaid now covers 62 million people, one-fifth of all Americans.

The option to expand the program, as part of the president's health care law, could cover millions more by extending eligibility to households earning up to 138 percent of the poverty level. That's about $32,500 for a family of four.

The government will pay the full expansion cost for the first three years, and gradually reduce the subsidy to 90 percent. The traditional federal match for Medicaid averages 57 percent.

Some Republican governors say even a 10 percent share of expanded coverage would burden future state budgets. But others say a 9-to-1 leverage is hard to beat, and they reject the idea that the federal government won't keep its 90 percent funding promise.

Partisan politics surfaced in several state debates. In Idaho, Republican Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's advisory panel unanimously recommended expanding Medicaid, and Republican leaders in the GOP-controlled Legislature backed the idea. But Otter said in January there was no hurry, and Idaho should address the entire "broken" Medicaid program over time.

Disappointed Idahoans note that Otter faces a tea party-backed challenger in next year's GOP primary.

"The argument that's going to carry the day in Idaho is politics," said Democratic state Rep. John Rusche, a retired pediatrician. "The governor has to run in the Republican primary."

"The state is missing out significantly," Rusche said, and its taxpayers are subsidizing states that expand Medicaid.

Otter spokesman Jon Hanian said the governor is acting in Idaho's best interest.

Medicaid expansion could emerge in the 2016 GOP presidential primaries.

Govs. John Kasich of Ohio and Chris Christie of New Jersey agreed to expand Medicaid. Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin declined. All are possible candidates in 2016, but Kasich and Walker first face re-election next year.

Kasich had to do an end-run around Republican legislators to tap federal money to cover an extra 275,000 Ohioans under Medicaid.

"It's just the right thing to do," Kasich said.

In New Orleans, the Times-Picayune urged Jindal to "be sensible" and "take the Medicaid money."

"The additional Medicaid money would dwarf the $902 million the state is projected to get in federal transportation funds that year," the editorial said, referring to a popular type of subsidy from Washington.

But Jindal said he would not let Obama "bully Louisiana into accepting an expansion of Obamacare."
© Copyright 2015 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
S&P 500 index has its best year since 1997
The stock market closed out a record year with more all-time highs on Tuesday, giving U.S. indexes their biggest annual gains in almost two decades.
6:56PM ( 1 year ago )
Colorado readies for 'Green Wednesday' pot sales
Police were adding extra patrols around pot shops in eight Colorado towns that plan to allow recreational sales to anyone over 21 on Jan. 1.
1:52PM ( 1 year ago )
Kerry seeks framework for Mideast peace talks
A senior State Department official says Secretary of State John Kerry will try this week to get Israel and the Palestinians to agree on a framework for negotiating a final peace agreement, yet cautions against raising expectations for Kerry's latest round of shuttle diplomacy.
1:35PM ( 1 year ago )
U.S. News
Missing Ga. bank director arrested in Brunswick
A bank director accused of losing millions of investors' dollars before vanishing last year was arrested Tuesday during a traffic stop in a city in south Georgia.
7:00PM ( 1 year ago )
Amtrak to suspend some Crescent service in Jan., Feb.
Amtrak service will shut down in parts of the Southeast for several days in January and February for rail maintenance by Norfolk Southern Railway.
9:00AM ( 1 year ago )
Lung cancer scans urged for some smokers, not all
Certain current or former heavy smokers should start getting yearly scans for lung cancer to cut their risk of death from the nation's top cancer killer, government advisers said Monday - even as they stressed that the tests aren't for everyone.
7:26AM ( 1 year ago )
Business News
Sex offender held in Hall County for failing to register
A 47-year-old man was booked into the Hall County Jail Tuesday, being held without bond for allegedly failing to register as a sex offender, his second such arrest.
6:09PM ( 1 year ago )
Pharmacy robberies may involve same suspect
Oakwood Police Tuesday afternoon released details in a pharmacy robbery they're investigating, similar to one that happened in the Hall County Tuesday morning.
5:46PM ( 1 year ago )
Victim critical following apartment fire
A 41-year-old woman was in critical but stable condition Tuesday after being rescued from an apartment fire in Forsyth County late Monday afternoon.
3:16PM ( 1 year ago )
Local/State News
Feeling US snub, Saudis strengthen ties elsewhere
Increasingly vocal in its frustration over U.S. policies in the Mideast, Saudi Arabia is strengthening ties elsewhere, seeking out an alignment that will bolster its position after it was pushed to the sidelines this year.
4:34PM ( 1 year ago )
NSA reportedly intercepts computer deliveries
A German magazine has lifted the lid on the operations of the National Security Agency's hacker unit, revealing how American spies intercepted computer deliveries, exploited hardware vulnerabilities, and even hijacked Microsoft's bug report system to spy on their targets.
12:31PM ( 1 year ago )
Rockets fired from Lebanon into Israel
Rockets from Lebanon struck northern Israel on Sunday, causing no injuries but sparking an Israeli reprisal shelling in a rare flare-up between the two countries.
12:26PM ( 1 year ago )
Politics
Greece enters uncharted territory after referendum 'no' vote
ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece lurched into uncharted territory and an uncertain future in Europe's common currency Sunday after voters overwhelmingly rejected demands by international creditors for mor...
10:46PM ( 6 hours ago )
Man shoots off firework from top of his head, dies instantly
CALAIS, Maine (AP) — A 22-year-old man who was drinking and celebrating the Fourth of July tried to launch a firework off the top of his head, killing him instantly, authorities said Sunday.Devon Stap...
8:41PM ( 8 hours ago )
Back at work: Congress facing busy agenda, funding deadline
WASHINGTON (AP) — Members of Congress return from July Fourth fireworks and parades Tuesday facing a daunting summer workload and an impending deadline to fund the government or risk a shutdown in the...
3:02PM ( 14 hours ago )
Obama: Freedom is paid for by men and women of US military
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama says U.S. service members make it possible to enjoy the "incredible blessings" in the greatest country on earth.He says "freedom is not free" but is paid for b...
12:45AM ( 1 day ago )
At least 14 hurt in deck collapse at North Carolina beach
EMERALD ISLE, N.C. (AP) — A deck collapsed at a North Carolina beach house as a family got set to take a group photo Saturday evening, leaving at least 14 people injured with two of those in critical...
11:58PM ( 1 day ago )