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Governors feuding over ‘Obamacare’

WILLIAMSBURG — The Supreme Court decision allowing states to opt out of expanding Medicaid, the health insurance programme for the poor, is pitting governor against governor, with Democrats accusing Republicans of being more concerned with election-year politics than solving health care problems.

The issue that dominated the annual National Governors Association meeting this weekend in the historic Virginia town of Williamsburg was the court’s ruling that Congress cannot penalise states who refuse to enroll a wider group of people in Medicaid, which is operated by states with federal reimbursements.

The Affordable Care Act, which would expand coverage to families with incomes of up to about $30,000, had directed Congress to withhold Medicaid funds from a state that did not expand the programme, which already can take up to a third of state spending.

In the two weeks since the court’s decision, five Republican governors have opted out of expanding their states’ programmes and at least four more are leaning toward the same. Many more are undecided. These governors say they were caught by surprise after expecting the court to either strike down or uphold the entire law that they derisively call “Obamacare”.

Review coming

“We’re going to make a very careful review of it and do what I think is best for the people of Pennsylvania,” Governor Tom Corbett, a Republican who came into office during the party’s strong showing in the 2010 elections, told Reuters on the sidelines of the conference. “The Supreme Court decision changed the dynamic.”

He bristled at the notion, offered by Democrats, that he was only half-heartedly considering the option to appease political supporters, saying he would not “comment on other governors criticising the governors who are taking their time to review this.”

Democrats say the extra federal money attached to the expansion will prove too good for most governors to pass up, especially as Medicaid and other health care costs continue to soar. Under the health care law, states will be reimbursed 100 percent for anyone who enrolls during the expansion. That rate will eventually taper off, but only to 90 per cent. (Reuters)

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