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Easy money: Democratic governors also wary of Medicaid

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican, has faced criticism for indicating he may resist expanding the state’s Medicaid program under ObamaCare.

Under the proposal, Washington for the first three years would cover all the costs of expanding the Medicaid rolls to include those earning up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level. In 2017, the federal share would drop to 95 percent. And in 2020 and the years beyond, Washington’s share of the bill would drop to 90 percent.

The state would be "foolish" to turn down the federal offer, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., insisted earlier this month, implying that governors expressing concerns about adopting the law’s generous eligibility standards are acting solely out of partisan interests.

But that is simply false. Gov. Sandoval is in good company – and his stance is echoed by several Democrats.

The Washington Post noted last week that a "number of Democratic governors are also quietly voicing concerns about a key provision to expand coverage. … The range of state leaders expressing unease suggests that implementing the law could be rough going." At least seven Democratic governors are noncommittal about their willingness to go along with expanding Medicaid rolls, The Post noted.

Unanswered questions include whether states that opt in will have the option of scaling back in future years. If a state that opts out decides it wants to participate at some later point, will the federal government still pay nearly the full cost? And can a state participate only partially?

"People in the Obama administration are putting a brave face on all of this, but they have a mess on their hands," said Wisconsin’s secretary of health services, Dennis Smith, who directed Medicaid under President George W. Bush.

More than 308,000 Nevadans are covered by Medicaid, and nearly 50,000 more people are expected to join in the next biennium, costing an additional $30 million per year. If the state participates in the ObamaCare expansion, Medicaid would take on an estimated 72,000 more beneficiaries. At a minimum, Nevada would eventually have to come up with many millions more dollars to keep the expansion intact.

The situation is similar in other states.

"Unlike the federal government, Montana can’t just print money," Gov. Brian Schweitzer, a Democrat, told The Post in a statement Wednesday. "We have a budget surplus, and we’re going to keep it that way."

Washington has a history of woefully underestimating the price of entitlement growth. In voicing concern about the long-term costs of Medicaid expansion, Gov. Sandoval isn’t playing politics, he’s doing his job and attempting to safeguard the fiscal health of this state and its residents.

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