Obama: 'Political Spite' Motivating States to Refuse Medicaid Expansion

By Susan Jones | April 18, 2014 | 8:36am EDT

President Barack Obama speaks about health care, Thursday, April 17, 2014, in the briefing room of the White House. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

(CNSNews.com) - Republicans "still can't bring themselves to admit that the Affordable Care Act is working," President Obama told a news conference on Thursday. He also took aim at states that have not expanded their Medicaid programs:

"This does frustrate me -- states that have chosen not to expand Medicaid for no other reason than political spite. You got 5 million people who could be having health insurance right now at no cost to these states -- zero cost to these states -- other than ideological reasons they have chosen not to provide health insurance for their citizens."

But some governors, pointing to President Obama's own broken promises, simply don't believe the government funding will be there.

Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government will fund 100 percent of the cost for states to expand Medicaid for three years, and that will gradually decline to 90 percent of the costs in 2020 and beyond.

'Nothing is free'

Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell said for him, "The decision comes down to this: Can states trust the federal government to not cut and run on its share of the cost?" Parnell said there's "no guarantee the federal government can make good" on its offer to pick up 90 percent of the tab for new enrollees in future years. "Obviously, it’s not free money just because these are federal dollars. They’re from American taxpayers," he said.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley called Medicaid expansion "a federal government dependency program for the uninsured." Since 1980, Medicaid spending has increased nationally by over 1500-percent, he noted, and it now takes up 35 percent of Alabama's General Fund. Expanding Medicaid would add another 300,000 people to Alabama's rolls.

"The federal government has said they will give us money to expand. But how can we believe the federal government will keep its word? The anything but Affordable Care Act has done nothing to gain our trust.

First, they told us we could keep our doctor – that turned out not to be true. Next, they told us we could keep our policy – that’s not true. Then they told us our premiums would not go up – nothing could be further from the truth. Now they are telling us we’ll get free money to expand Medicaid.

Ladies and Gentlemen, nothing is free. The money the federal government is spending with wild abandon is not federal dollars – those are your dollars, your hard-earned tax dollars. There is no difference between federal money and your money.

Our great nation is 17-point-2 trillion dollars in debt and it increases by 2-billion dollars every single day. That is why I cannot expand Medicaid in Alabama. We will not bring hundreds of thousands into a system that is broken and buckling."

Maine Gov. Paul Lepage said his state can't afford to expand Medicaid to 100,000 able-bodied adults: "The expansion offered through Obamacare would have a disastrous impact on Maine’s budget, as well as those truly needy individuals, our disabled and elderly, who rely today on the scarce resources in our program,"  he wrote in his veto message.

"The fiscal savings promised by Medicaid expansion and managed care are merely mirages. Proponents of this bill tout 'free' federal money and unspecified state 'savings' with no backup for these claims. It is shortsighted to think federal funds will always be available, especially after watching the federal deficit climb and witnessing continual delays and changes from Washington. When savings were promised in the past as a result of expanding Medicaid, they never materialized, leaving Maine taxpayers holding the bill."

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman called the Medicaid expansion unaffordable and unsustainable: The reality is that expanding Medicaid means less funding for state aid to education, early childhood programs, special education, the University of Nebraska, Chadron State College, Wayne State College, Peru State College and Nebraska’s six community colleges," he wrote.

"The majority of Americans no longer trust President Obama because of the false statements he has made about Obamacare. He said if you like your current health care plan, you can keep it. Period. That simply was not true. Millions of Americans have received cancellation notices of their current policy because of Obamacare."

Twenty-six states and the District of Columbia have expanded their Medicaid programs; 24 states have not yet done so. They include: Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

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