The Dishonorable Republicans

The editors of the National Review call Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich "dishonorable" for deciding to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. So much for the governor's status as an influential conservative voice and a potential GOP presidential candidate, say the mouthpieces of the extreme right-wing.

"It's definitely going to weaken [Kasich] with the conservative base," Chris Littleton, the Ohio director for American Majority Action told Politico. The Washington Examiner's Philip Klein called Kasich's decision "political cowardice" and "a huge victory for the White House." Under the headline "The GOP's ObamaCare Flippers," the Wall Street Journal's editorialists accused Kasich and the growing number of GOP governors supporting Medicaid expansion of taking a federal "bribe" by accepting the matching funds provided under the law.

Kasich and five other Republican governors, all of whom joined the legal challenge to the constitutionality of Obamacare, have endorsed the expansion. Kasich made clear that he still hates the landmark health care law. So did Michigan Republican Rick Snyder, who nonetheless made his announcement from a podium adorned with a big sign, "Expand."

Along with governors like Arizona's Jan Brewer, who stopped wagging her finger at President Obama, the enlightened Republican governors who agreed are hardly part of the GOP's liberal caucus, if there were such a thing. They're still hardliners, but they can do math. The "bribe" that so upsets the Wall Street Journal is considered by others to be a generous incentive. For starters, states will receive 100-percent funding for newly eligible Medicaid enrollees, and by 2020 the match will be slightly reduced to 90 percent. If you're putting the people of your state ahead of partisan interests, that's a deal only a fool would pass up.

The expansion of Medicaid will make a huge difference in the lives of the people who will get health coverage they wouldn't otherwise have. It will help businesses and hospitals, which teamed up to make the case to Kasich and governors in other states.

"The case needed to be made by stakeholders on the front lines," said Kasich's communications director, Scott Milburn. "Once they got going, it became a persuasive argument. Their ongoing partnership on this is highly valued."

Kasich's decision was on the merits: "We are going to extend Medicaid for the working poor and for those who are jobless trying to find work," he said this week at a news conference. "It makes great sense for the state of Ohio because it will allow us to provide greater care with our own dollars." It is especially helpful for rural Ohio: "If we were to reject extending Medicaid, I believe we would create financial chaos, particularly across our rural hospitals, our rural health care delivery systems, because they would no longer be able to get reimbursed for the care that they provide and would create, in my judgment, a financial mess."

Kasich and all the governors expanding Medicaid are right -- it's the smart thing to do. The program is a lifeline for seniors, children, working families and people with disabilities. It creates jobs by pumping billions of dollars into local and regional economies. It keeps open the doors of hospitals and community health centers. Medicaid keeps millions of middle-class families from going bankrupt because of nursing-home and in-home care.

Medicaid helps about 60 million people directly, and it plays a huge role in our lives. It's the backbone of nursing-home care for seniors. It enables low-income people to survive and work their way up to a better life. Sixty-five percent of people who receive Medicaid are in working families.

While Republican governors like Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Rick Perry of Texas play games with people's lives to throw red meat to the extremists in their party, Kasich and the a growing number of GOP governors put the needs of their state before their political party.

I'm no fan of John Kasich. He's still an anti-union archconservative who fights the progressive agenda, but he knows a good deal when he sees one. If he and a handful of his right-wing governor cohorts can get past their ideology to do their jobs, then why can't the rest of them follow suit?