North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple makes four Republican governors who've decided to back an expansion of Medicaid to their poor residents under President Barack Obama's health care law.
Dalrymple submitted a bill to the state legislature last week proposing the state broaden Medicaid (h/t Politico Pulse). Obamacare aims to make the benefits available to anyone who earns up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level, which is $14,856 for a single person. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) announced her support for the Medicaid expansion yesterday, following Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez (R).
Like practically every Republican holding public office during the past three years, Dalrymple isn't a supporter of Obama's health care reform law. Here's what he said when the Supreme Court upheld Obamacare last year:
The fact that the Supreme Court decision permits mandated health care coverage does not mean that the Obama administration's health care plan is good policy for the nation. The health care plan is wrong for North Dakota. Our citizens want the freedom to make their own decisions about their health-care coverage.
Instead of embracing government-run health care supported by a tax on the American people, we should be pursuing market-based reforms that make heath care more affordable, that encourage greater participation and provide Americans with more choices.
I call on Congress to enact meaningful reforms that reflect the wishes of the American people.
Now, Dalrymple wants the Republican-controlled state legislature to forget all that and focus on the cash the federal government wants to deliver to Bismarck. Here's what the governor told the Grand Forks Herald on Friday.
In an interview after the hearing, Dalrymple said the national spotlight on the expansion program and its ties to Obamacare can sometimes make issues seem more difficult, and believes this might be one of them.
"We try to leave the politics out in the hallway when we make these decisions. 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?" he said. "We're thinking, yes, we should."
Similar thinking contributed to the decisions by Dalrymple's fellow Republican governors in Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico.
Congress intended the Medicaid expansion to be a pretty good deal for states. Unlike the average 60 percent of Medicaid costs the federal government pays for current beneficiaries, the feds will kick in a much bigger share of the costs for the newly enrolled people. From 2014 through 2016, the federal government will pay 100 percent, then ratchet down its share until it reaches 90 percent in 2022 and beyond.
But the Supreme Court made the Medicaid expansion optional for states, leading 10 Republican governors to decide even a 0 percent to 10 percent share is too steep a price for enrolling poor people into health care coverage.