A handful of Republican governors announced in the aftermath of last Thursday’s Supreme Court decision to uphold ObamaCare that they would refuse the Medicaid expansion attached to the bill. Iowa Governor Terry Branstad joined that group on Monday. Calling the program “federal blackmail”, Branstad said neither the State of Iowa nor the federal government can afford ObamaCare.
“Here’s the problem: The federal government has done this again and again: ‘Buy into our program, and we’re going to do all these things for you,’ and then it doesn’t happen, and then the taxpayers of the state get stuck with it,” Branstad said during his weekly news conference. “This is the reason why we and so many others objected to this.”
The Supreme Court ruled that Congress may offer states federal funding to expand healthcare coverage to millions of new individuals. However, states can refuse to participate in the expansion without losing all of their Medicaid funds. The federal government will not be able to punish states by removing existing funds. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and now Iowa’s governor have all announced their intentions to opt out of the Medicaid expansion.
“I’ve said all along, I don’t think the states can afford…in our state it adds 150,000 to the Medicaid rolls, and the federal government frankly can’t afford it either,” Branstad said. “Every year they’re spending more than a trillion dollars more than they’re taking in. 40 percent of their budget is borrowed money. Who believes they’re going to be able to fund this? There’s no way.”
The Medicaid expansion covers people up to 138 percent of the poverty level, beginning in 2014. The federal government pledged to pay 100 percent of the expansion costs during the first three years and 90 percent thereafter. States that opt out of the program potentially stand to lose millions, even billions of dollars. Iowa is in much better shape financially to reject the funds than states like Florida.
“We want to look at a better and different alternative,” Governor Branstad said. “In Iowa, we already have a much higher percentage of our people insured than others and I think if we do other things to reduce and control our healthcare costs, then we can do some things at the state level to try to help people in this. But I think embarking on this federal mandate is not the right thing to do.”
The Democrats quickly attacked Branstad for his decision, with U.S. Senator Tom Harkin calling it “a political ploy” and state senator Jack Hatch (D-Des Moines) claiming Iowa will lose $50 million in federal funding. Governor Branstad rebuked those claims.
“I know that Senator Hatch is a big supporter of ObamaCare, but a lot of Iowans aren’t,” Branstad said. “A lot of people are leery of all these federal promises. They’re doing all this on borrowed money. They’re doing all this on something we know is not affordable and not sustainable.”
Branstad also rejected Hatch’s call for an “ObamaCare summit”, saying it would be counterproductive. He added that in November, voters will finally get their say on this issue.
Photo by Dave Davidson, Prezography.com
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