Editorial: The heartless approach to medical care

Here’s a stunning example of political cruelty: Two dozen conservative-controlled states still refuse to expand Medicaid under the nation’s new Affordable Care Act — even though expansion would cost those states virtually nothing and would provide health coverage for 5.7 million “working poor” people.

The only reason for this ruthless refusal is that right-wing state leaders don’t want to cooperate with President Obama’s historic medical reform. They would rather hurt millions of home-state families, rather than to accept the Democratic breakthrough.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch observed last week:

“Over the past two years, a small faction of Missouri Republicans has blocked Medicaid expansion in the state, despite overwhelming evidence that, besides being the right and moral thing to do, it also would be a boon for the state’s economy. They ignored a University of Missouri study that predicted that the influx of billions of federal dollars into the state’s health-care sector would create tens of thousands of jobs. ... They ignored the simple moral imperative that when more people have health insurance, fewer people die.”

When the ACA was passed in 2010, it required states to expand Medicaid to cover families earning less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level. The U.S. government pays nearly all the added cost. However, when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the law, it allowed state leaders to reject the expansion.

So far, 26 states and the District of Columbia have joined the expansion, giving medical insurance to 5.2 million lower-income people (some through increases in the Children’s Health Insurance Program). Thank heaven, West Virginia’s Gov. Tomblin accepted this humane step, which has guaranteed care for 130,000 more West Virginians so far.

But 24 GOP-dominated states blocked the humanitarian effort, preventing coverage for 5.7 million other people.

Last week, the U.S. Council of Economic Advisers issued a report titled “Missed Opportunities: The Consequences of State Decisions Not to Expand Medicaid.” It said the obstructionist states not only damage the health of working families, they also lose thousands of medical jobs created by expansion.

For example, the study said Florida is failing to cover 848,000 residents and also losing 63,000 new health-care jobs. Republican Gov. Rick Scott formerly opposed the expansion, but reversed himself last year, saying: “I cannot, in good conscience, deny Floridians the needed access to health care.” However, Republicans in his legislature still block it.

We agree with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which demanded that holdout Missouri GOP legislators change course. It asked: “Maybe they’ll finally listen next year. How many more jobs and people will they have to kill?”

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