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Medicaid expansion hits GOP wall in some U.S. states

June 3, 2013 at 3:22 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, June 3 (UPI) -- As state legislatures prepare to adjourn for the summer, a handful of Republican-controlled statehouses are embroiled in tough battles over expanding Medicaid.

The Washington Post reported Sunday Republican governors in three states face uphill battles trying to persuade lawmakers to go along with the Medicaid expansion -- a central tenant of President Barack Obama's sweeping healthcare bill, the Affordable Care Act.

The law, as passed by Congress, made the Medicaid expansion mandatory for all states to help cover those without health insurance and who make about $15,000 a year or less. A subsequent review by the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Medicaid mandate on states, setting the stage for a series of intensely political fights over whether state governments wanted to take federal tax dollars -- the expansion is fully funded initially and gradually decreases to a 90 percent/10 percent federal-state funding level by 2020 -- or refuse the government spending expansion on principle.

The fight has been particularly intense in Arizona, where firebrand conservative Gov. Jan Brewer, a longtime favorite of Tea Party groups, has reversed course on "Obamacare" -- at least as far as the Medicaid expansion goes. Not only does she now support the expansion, she's called a legislative "moratorium" until Republicans pass it.

To back up her threat, Brewer has vetoed five unrelated pieces of legislation, pressing the deeply conservative Arizona House of Representatives to pass the expansion.

The governors of Ohio and Michigan are in similar fights with their state's lawmakers. Florida Gov. Rick Scott, another Republican who supported the expansion, lost his fight with the Legislature, which has left the capitol for summer recess.

Brewer's spokesman Matthew Benson said the Medicaid expansion makes good policy sense and were it not for the "Obamacare" label lawmakers from both parties would be lining up to pass it.

"We recognize that the 'Obamacare' title is what makes this controversial," Benson said. "If it weren't for that aspect of it, this plan would have gotten done months ago."

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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