Over the past week, we’ve had a big and welcome surprise. Two of the loudest opponents to the expansion of Medicaid have been Virginia’s Gov. Bob McDonnell and Florida’s Gov. Rick Scott. Now, both have moved—grudgingly—in the direction of Medicaid expansion.
We’ve been watching closely as states decide whether to make sure the most vulnerable people get the health coverage they need. Under the Affordable Care Act, people near or under the poverty line should be covered by Medicaid, but that’s only if states agree to accept federal funding to provide this coverage. It’s a critical piece of the Affordable Care Act’s mission to make sure no one goes without coverage.
At first, Republican governors seemed determined to score a political point at the expense of their states by rejecting the Medicaid funds. But little by little, many formerly-implacable opponents have dropped their objections. In the past few months, we’ve seen onetime opponents like Arizona’s Jan Brewer and Ohio’s John Kasich declare their willingness to take Medicaid expansion funds. It shouldn’t be a tough decision—it means health care coverage for hundreds of thousands of people.
As part of a last-minute deal to pass a transportation bill, McDonnell approved the creation of a commission to deal with Medicaid expansion on Saturday. It’s not a guarantee, but it opens a door that seemed lock shut before. If the commission moves ahead with expansion, Virginia will accept federal funds and 400,000 people will get health care coverage. That makes a big difference in the lives of lower-income families.
Meanwhile, in Florida, Scott also announced his intention to accept Medicaid expansion for more than 1.3 million lower-income people. The Wednesday announcement comes as a surprise and a relief—although it remains to be seen how Scott’s promise to privatize Medicaid services will affect health care in the state. This decision is especially surprising given that Scott, a scandal-tainted former hospital-industry CEO, spent tens of millions of dollars of his own money campaigning against the Affordable Care Act.
In a state where one out of every five people doesn’t have insurance, the Medicaid expansion will make a huge difference.
Unfortunately, some state governors are still holding out—including Maine’s Paul LePage, South Carolina’s Nikki Haley, Pennsylvania’s Tom Corbett and Wisconsin’s Scott Walker. The most consequential holdout is still Texas, where Gov. Rick Perry is standing in the way of Medicaid funding for more than 1 million people. Ending this stubborn opposition and expanding Medicaid for all Texans is the top priority for Working America members in Houston, where we opened a new office in January. Tens of thousands of Working America members have taken action demanding their governors accept Medicaid funds, and we’re not letting up.