EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


March 3, 2013

Column: More GOP governors drink Medicaid Kool-Aid

New Jersey’s Chris Christie has become the eighth Republican governor to agree to expand Medicaid coverage in his state under the provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

Is the last line of Republican resistance to “Obamacare” disintegrating?

In 2011, 26 states joined a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Obamacare provision that would have forced them to expand Medicaid coverage as a condition of continued participation in the federal program.

The Supreme Court ruled in their favor last year, negating the mandatory requirement, so it is now voluntary for states to expand Medicaid coverage.

The Congressional Budget Office still estimates that expanded Medicaid coverage, though now voluntary rather than mandated on states, will contribute about a third of the reduction in the number of uninsured Americans brought about by Obamacare by 2022.

So it was assumed, once expansion of Medicaid became voluntary, that this was a line Republican governors would not cross. Refusal of Republican governors to play ball could be a serious setback for Obamacare to advance and plant its institutional roots.

But one by one, Republican governors like Christie, and just before him Florida’s Rick Scott, are playing ball.

Christie was graphically honest in describing the perverse dynamics going on.

“... I am no fan of the Affordable Care Act. ... I think it is wrong for New Jersey and I think it is wrong for America. ... However, it is now the law of the land and I will make all my judgments as governor based on what I believe is best for New Jersey.”

By expanding the qualifying conditions for Medicaid, Obamacare opens the door, according to the Congressional Budget Office’s latest estimate, to adding another 11 million people to the almost 68 million Americans already in the program.

The costs of those 68 million are paid for by a combination of state and federal funds. However, as incentive to bring in the additional 11 million, the federal government is paying 100 percent of the costs for the first three years.

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