States divided on Medicaid

March 8, 2013

Medicaid expansion is driving a wedge between legislatures and governors, and increasingly between states and their citizens.

Medicaid expansion is driving a wedge between legislatures and governors, and increasingly between states and their citizens.

Last week, protesters marched in Austin, Texas, to voice their opposition to Governor Rick Perry’s vow to opt-out of Medicaid expansion. Nearly one in four Texans are uninsured, the highest percentage in the nation.

In Florida, where the GOP claims the governor’s office and both houses, state Republicans are divided over whether to take the federal funds or let them go to other states that do opt-in.

Florida Speaker of the House Will Weatherford, an expansion opponent, revealed that when he was a child, his family relied on safety-net and charity services for cancer treatment for his younger brother. A local newspaper reporter also discovered that the family received support from a program that used Medicaid funds, which Weatherford disputed.

However, Florida Governor Rick Scott has indicated he would support the expansion in spite of his opposition to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. A senate committee studied the impact Medicaid expansion would have on the state. Although it would cost $5.2 billion, Florida would gain $51 billion in federal aid over the next 10 years if the state expanded Medicaid.

So far at least seven Republican governors have said they will participate in the expansion.