This will be the next big fight, but will take place on the state level. Republican governors may try to sabotage the health care act by insisting they won’t take the federal money for Medicaid expansion, but don’t underestimate the political pressure that will be exerted by voters who want what other states have. (Don’t forget that many of the reddest states are very poor and heavily dependent on programs like Medicaid.):
For many people without insurance, a key question raised bythe Supreme Court’s decision today to uphold the Affordable Care Act is whether states will decline to participate in the law’s big Medicaid expansion.
Although the court upheld the law’s mandate requiring individuals to buy insurance, the justices said the act could not force states to expand Medicaid to millions by threatening to withhold federal funding.Republican leaders of some states already are saying they are inclined to say thanks, but no thanks.Tom Suehs, the Texas Health and Human Services Executive commissioner whose state could cover an additional 1.8 million people by 2019, praised the court for giving “states more ability to push back against a forced expansion of Medicaid. The court clearly recognized that the Affordable Care Act put states in the no-win situation of losing all their Medicaid funding or expanding their programs knowing that they would face billions of dollars in extra costs down the road.”
The act, signed by President Obama in March 2010, required “states to extend Medicaid coverage to non-elderly individuals with incomes up to 133 percent of the poverty line, or about $30,700 for a family of four,” according to a March 2012 report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal think tank. The extension was expected to cover nearly 16 million people by 2019, one of the law’s main ways of reducing the ranks of the uninsured.
The 26 states that challenged the health care law together account for an estimated 8.5 million of those who would benefit from Medicaid’s expansion by 2019, more than half the total, according to ProPublica’s analysis of an Urban Institute report prepared for the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Stanford University health economist Dr. Jay Bhattacharya wrote on Stanford’s medical school blog that some states may opt out. “Cash-strapped states will almost certainly consider this option since they will ultimately be on the hook for financing at least a portion of this expansion,” he wrote. “If enough states decide to deny the Medicaid expansion, this may substantially reduce the ability of ACA [the Affordable Care Act] to expand insurance coverage.”
Medicaid is a joint state-federal program that provides health coverage to the poor and disabled, with states putting up a portion of the money and the federal government funding the rest. Each state’s matching percentage is based on per capita income.
According to a separate Kaiser foundation report, “Medicaid currently provides health coverage for over 60 million individuals, including 1 in 4 children, but low parent eligibility levels and restrictions in eligibility for other adults mean that many low income individuals remain uninsured. The ACA expands coverage by setting a national Medicaid eligibility floor for nearly all groups.”Under the law, the federal government would cover nearly 93 percent of the costs of the Medicaid expansion from 2014-22, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.