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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Put Politics Aside and Say YES to Medicaid Expansion

Amy Traver

Staff Writer

Last week, Governor Jack Dalrymple of North Dakota announced that he, too, would support the Medicaid expansion in his state. This makes four Republican governors who have decided to accept federal assistance to expand health coverage to their residents.

Why are Republican leaders who formerly criticized the health care law all of the sudden embracing it?

According to Governor Dalrymple, “in the end, it comes down to are you going to allow your people to have additional Medicaid money that comes at no cost to us, or aren’t you?” Governor Dalrymple—in addition to Governor Sandoval in Nevada, Governor Martinez in New Mexico, and Governor Brewer in Arizona—are not letting politics stand in the way of doing what is right for their residents and their state.

These governors are starting to realize what we have known for a while: The Medicaid expansion is a good deal for states. By expanding health coverage, these governors can:

Strengthen safety-net hospitals in their state. Safety-net hospitals provide care to the uninsured and underinsured, often collecting little or none of the cost of that care from patients. The American Hospital Association recently reported that U.S. hospitals provided $41.1 billion of uncompensated care in 2011 alone. Expanding Medicaid will reduce the number of uninsured in the state and lessen the burden of uncompensated costs on local hospitals.

Take advantage of an economic stimulus. When states choose to expand Medicaid, billions of new federal dollars will come into the state. These new dollars will generate thousands of new jobs and increase business activity across the entire state economy, not just in the health care sector.

Alleviate pressure on their state budget. Most states have a variety of programs that fund specific health care services for the uninsured. If states choose to expand Medicaid, they will significantly reduce the demand for these programs. In doing so, states can begin to see savings in their budgets without risking the health of their residents.  

Provide hundreds of thousands of residents with the opportunity to get affordable health coverage. Most individuals who will be newly eligible under the Medicaid expansion would otherwise not be able to afford health coverage if a state does not choose to expand. Medicaid coverage has been shown to improve people’s health and financial security. By choosing to expand Medicaid, states are choosing to have a healthier population and a healthier workforce.

Tell your state leaders to put the politics aside and say YES to the Medicaid expansion.