For sheer political cruelty, it’s hard to beat Republican-controlled states that refuse to expand Medicaid under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Expansion would bring health coverage to millions of “working poor” families — and cost those states almost nothing — but GOP leaders prefer to hurt the modest-income families, rather than cooperate with the landmark reform of the Democratic president.
Originally, the ACA required all states to provide Medicaid insurance to all families earning less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level. But the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that this expansion is optional for states. So two dozen GOP-controlled states won’t cooperate.
“It really is just almost awesome in its evilness,” Jon Gruber of MIT told Washington Monthly. Dr. Gruber, who formerly helped Gov. Mitt Romney create the Massachusetts medical insurance plan, told the national magazine:
“The single thing we probably need to keep the most focus on is the tragedy of the lack of Medicaid expansions . . . . Really, a life-costing tragedy has taken place in America as a result of that Supreme Court decision. You know, half the states in America are denying their poorest citizens health insurance paid for by the federal government. They are not just not interested in covering poor people, they are willing to sacrifice billions of dollars of injections into their economy in order to punish poor people.”
A new survey by Public Policy Polling found that residents of the no-coverage states — even rank-and-file Republicans — strongly support expanding Medicaid to help lower-income families.
GOP leaders are “actively, single-handedly blocking health coverage for 5 million Americans in 24 states,” Newsweek/Daily Beast writer Sally Kohn said, adding:
“One academic study suggests that of those 5 million, 10,000 Americans will die this year alone due to lack of insurance.” She said the left-out victims would have obtained medical care “if Republican politicians hadn’t taken it away because of petty partisanship. Largely because Republicans want to spite President Obama on a key piece of his namesake, thousands of Americans may die.”
Thank heaven, Gov. Tomblin approved the Medicaid expansion for West Virginia. So many Mountain State residents have been helped that Rep. Shelley Capito, R-W.Va., is retreating from the GOP line that both the ACA and its enlarged Medicaid must be destroyed. She told the conservative National Journal: “Coverage is great and having more people covered is excellent.”
Commenting on her statement, Talking Points Memo said:
“Capito’s borderline heresy likely has a very pragmatic source: Medicaid expansion is a pretty good deal for her state. With the federal government covering all of the expansion costs for the first three years and 90 percent thereafter, the Kaiser Family Foundation projects that 116,000 West Virginians would be covered by the expansion by 2022.”
In this election year, we hope Americans see the obvious: Democrats want to extend health care for “working poor” families, and Republicans are doing their utmost to block it.