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Governors Push Back on Medicaid Expansion

October 5 2009 | by

The nation’s governors are pushing back on Congressional efforts for health-care reform that would potentially expand Medicaid, the program that provides subsidies to low-income persons and people with disabilities who are unable to work. States are concerned about the daunting prospect of having to pay for coverage to millions of low-income residents, especially in a time of recession.

According to The Washington Post, the legislation the Senate Finance Committee is expected to approve this week calls for the biggest expansion of Medicaid since its creation in 1965. Under the Senate bill and a similar House proposal, a patchwork state-federal insurance program targeted mainly at children, pregnant women and disabled people would effectively become a Medicare for the poor, a health-care safety net for all people with an annual income below $14,404.

In recent days, House Democrats have debated whether to trim Medicaid funding in their bill to make room for other priorities.

Among the most vocal opponents of Medicaid expansion are Republican governors from Southern and rural Western states that offer minimal coverage under current law and are less equipped to handle an influx of new beneficiaries, compared with more urban states with better-established social-services infrastructures.

While it is difficult to track a lower-income population, it’s also uncertain how many people who qualify for Medicaid under current rules — including people with disabilities and a sizable portion of the uninsured population — will decide to finally enroll. This would push costs higher overall, state governors’ say.

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