Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) announced Tuesday that his state will turn down the Medicaid expansion, becoming the first governor of a blue state to officially say no to the coverage provision of the Affordable Care Act that the Supreme Court made optional.
“At this time, without serious reforms, it would be financially unsustainable for Pennsylvania taxpayers, and I cannot recommend a dramatic Medicaid expansion,” Corbett wrote in a letter to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
The decision will please conservative advocates who are urging leaders to stonewall Obamacare implementation. But it’s a blow to the many thousands of uninsured Pennsylvanians who would have received coverage through the program, which extends Medicaid eligibility to Americans up to 133 percent of the poverty line for participating states.
“Washington needs to stop treating Medicaid as a one-size-fits-all mandate and start granting states true flexibility to successfully reform and build a system that works for them,” Corbett said. “I want to be clear, I firmly believe we can serve more of our citizens in Pennsylvania, but only if we are given the independence and flexibility to do so. … As Governor, I will continue to work toward policies that will provide Pennsylvanians greater access to quality care and coverage.”
Democratic governors are participating in the expansion. About a dozen Republican governors have turned it down — all in red states. Five GOP-governed states — Arizona, New Mexico, North Dakota, Nevada and, most recently, Ohio — have accepted it. Others remain undecided.
The Medicaid expansion is a financially enticing offer for states: the federal government would pay the full cost for the first few years and 90 percent after 2020. Conservative opponents fret that the federal government won’t come through with the funds. Top Democrats in Pennsylvania are already demanding that Corbett reverse course.
“Governor Corbett chose to pander to the far right and willfully inflict damage on Pennsylvania’s economy - he has undermined any promises he makes about jobs,” said State Rep. Dan Frankel, the chair of the Democratic Caucus. “The federally funded Medicaid expansion would be a win-win for Pennsylvania. … Governor Corbett should reverse his job-killing decision.”
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.