Governors are descending on Washington this weekend as Republicans wrestle with the future of ObamaCare’s expansion of Medicaid.
GOP lawmakers say they are looking to governors for advice on what to do about the program, which is one of the toughest issues Republicans face as they look to repeal and replace the healthcare law.
Many of the lawmakers representing states that accepted the Medicaid expansion are looking to keep it. But they are at odds with conservatives and Republicans from states that rejected the expansion; they are pushing full repeal.
It will be hard for any repeal and replace bill to pass Congress unless Republicans can bridge that divide, and they are looking to the governors, who help run Medicaid as a joint federal-state program, for help.
“We’re in extensive discussions with them and we’ll talk with them more when they get here and then move ahead on both Medicaid and the individual market,” Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) told reporters earlier this month, speaking of the governors meeting.
Republican governors are almost evenly divided on the Medicaid issue, with 17 hailing from states that rejected the expansion, and 16 hailing from states that accepted it.
States that took the expansion broadened eligibility for Medicaid — the government healthcare program for the poor and disabled — up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line. About 11 million people have gained coverage because of the Medicaid expansion.
The healthcare plan that House Republicans outlined last week calls for eventually eliminating the extra federal funding for the Medicaid expansion. If states wanted to continue covering the additional people, they would have to spend more of their own money.
Some Republican governors from states that accepted the expansion have been vocal about wanting to protect it — and none more so than Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
Over the weekend Kasich called the House GOP plan “a very, very bad idea, because we cannot turn our back on the most vulnerable.”