Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Republican Governors Begin to Cave on Obamacare

GOP Governor Mike Pence

While Virginia Republicans continue to drink vast quantities of Kool-Aid and, in some cases (perhaps many cases) allow their racial hatred for Barack Obama to blind them to the concrete benefits of expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Health Care Act, a number of conservative Republican governors are taking the federal funding to expand healh care coverage to their states' uninsured.  Some are trying to have their cake and eat it too by not calling the programs Medicaid expansion, but the end result is the same and as more citizens benefit, it will be increasingly difficult for the GOP as a whole to roll back coverage.  A piece in Salon looks at the phenomenon.  Here are excerpts:
It’s fair to say that Indiana Gov. Mike Pence has thrown Obamacare politics for a considerable loop. Pence, a staunch conservative and opponent of the Affordable Care Act, plans to use money made available by the ACA to expand Indiana’s program for insuring low-income residents. Pence will deny up and down that he’s made himself a party to Obamacare, but federal money flowing into Indiana to provide health coverage for Hoosiers would make those denials fairly hollow.

The governor is already taking heat from conservatives who say he’s betraying conservative principles and not being forthright about it (an on-point critique!), but Pence’s apostasy could have ramifications beyond ticking off a few Heritage Foundation fellows.

Pence is not the first conservative leader to ask for Obamacare funds to expand health coverage in his state. John Kasich, Chris Christie and Jan Brewer all expanded Medicaid in line with the Affordable Care Act’s original intent. Other Republican governors have successfully implemented customized expansion programs, like Terry Brandstad in Iowa and Rick Snyder in Michigan.

Pence is different, though. He’s a conservative darling with well-established ambitions to run for the presidency. And he’s mapping out a strategy to claim the benefits of Obamacare while purporting to keep the law at arm’s length. That strategy requires a fair bit of willful obtuseness and chutzpah – his office’s announcement of the expansion plan claims that it “will alleviate the coverage gap created by the Affordable Care Act,” even though it was Pence himself who created that gap when he chose not to expand Medicaid. But that’s largely beside the point.

When a committed and high-profile Obamacare foe like Pence indicates he’s going to find a way to work within the new reality of the Affordable Care Act, he’s doing two things. First, he’s making the die-hard “repeal Obamacare” crowd look unreasonable. If Mike Pence can learn to live with the ACA, then anyone can. Second, he’s sending a message to Republican leaders in other states that it’s possible to take advantage of the law’s benefits while saving face as a small-government conservative.

[F]or conservatives who resent Pence for giving up the ghost, this is a problem.

Specifically, it’s a problem for Republicans who still hope to make the Affordable Care Act a deathly toxic issue for Democrats in 2014. Yes, the issue has receded lately as a streak of ACA victories sucked the wind out of the anti-Obamacare movement, but it will return in time for Election Day. If the feds give Pence the thumbs-up to go ahead with his expansion plan, Republican candidates fulminating against the law could find themselves asked to explain why they can’t tolerate Obamacare when the ultraconservative governor of Indiana found a way.

There's more to the piece that deserves a full read.  The bottom line, is that what Pence has done is to show the lie of the Virginia GOP's anti-Medicaid expansion obsession.


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