Mother Jones has sifted through the 50 states and cobbled together a list of state governors who have effectively chosen to deny the poorest of their constituencies health care coverage and the opportunity to attain basic medical care through their refusal to accept Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion provision. They represent the who’s who of Republican governors whose states occupy the core of stalwart opposition to the Affordable Care Act. These state leaders have opted out of the expansion despite the low percentage their states will have to pay. The federal government will foot the bill entirely for the first 2 years and state will be responsible for no more than 10% of the expansion after that. It’s no surprise that Governor Rick Scott of Florida is rejecting the added Medicaid funds, as he did with high speed rail funding, but this time his refusal will leave 951,622 people uninsured.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, Florida has the second highest percentage of uninsured Americans, topping out at 21%. Texas takes the lead with the highest level of uninsured at 24%. Unfortunately, that state’s governor, and former presidential candidate Rick Perry, is also standing firm against this expansion as well. These states are essentially refusing millions of dollars in federal aid for little other reason but to exert some measure of strength against the President’s signature accomplishment. The problem is hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of low income people will be denied basic medical care to satisfy what amounts to a political pissing contest.
13 Governors Screwing Over the Uninsured
Stephanie Mencimer’s latest Mother Jones cover story showcased the grim impact tea-party-influenced state lawmakers have had in Florida. Under Gov. Rick Scott, the state rejected billions of dollars in federal funding for any kind of Affordable Care Act-related program, with Scott leading the fight against the expansion of Medicaid coverage for the poor. But Scott’s certainly not the only governor to balk at the idea of making public health insurance more inclusive. In the last month, Govs. Tom Corbett (R-Penn.), Pat McCrory (R-N.C.), and Scott Walker (R-Wis.) announced their states would not be expanding Medicaid to cover more low-income, uninsured residents, and Koch-funded super-PAC Americans for Prosperity expressed its support for a bill introduced in the Pennsylvania Legislature that would reject the expanded Medicaid coverage in state code.
Robert Bentley (R-Ala.)
When it comes to the Affordable Care Act, Bentley did not mince words: “It is, in my opinion, truly the worst piece of legislation that has ever been passed in my lifetime,” the governor said at a luncheon last year. After last year’s presidential elections, Bentley also announced he would not be supporting Medicaid expansion—a move that would add more than 300,000 Alabama residents to Medicaid rolls, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation report. Like his fellow Republican governors, Bentley cited the costliness of covering the poor as the reason he was opposed (expanding Medicaid coverage would cost the state some $771 million), but researchers at the University of Alabama-Birmingham found that opening the program to more low-income groups would actually generate $1.7 billion in state tax revenue over the decade it’s implemented, in addition to $20 billion in new income.
Nathan Deal (R-Ga.)
Georgia has the fifth-highest rate of uninsured residents in the country, and expanding its Medicaid program would accommodate 698,000 new Medicaid enrollees, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. A report from Harvard Law School reveals that Georgia—like Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, North and South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas—also has one of the highest rates of new and existing AIDS cases, along with the worst outcomes nationwide, in part because the poor aren’t able to access treatment through the state’s strict Medicaid eligibility requirements.
Butch Otter (R-Idaho)
In July 2012, Otter appointed a 14-member committee to weigh the pros and cons of expanding Medicaid coverage to more of Idaho’s poor. In November, the panel unanimously agreed that the state should accept expansion, arguing that this reform would save the state the money it bleeds in the state-funded ER costs its uninsured residents can’t pay. But in 2013, the governor announced Idaho would not be pursuing Medicaid expansion—despite the fact that the state would only have to spend $261 million to cover up to roughly 100,000 newly eligible Idahoans, receiving $3.7 billion from the federal government over 10 years.