Faced with severe budget problems, Republican governors are escalating their fight against federal rules requiring states to maintain current levels of health-care coverage for the poor and disabled.
The growing resistance to the federal government over the hugely expensive Medicaid program poses a critical test for President Obama, who has the power to relax the rules for states.
If he allows states to tighten eligibility requirements, it would outrage many of his core supporters while undermining the central goal of his signature health-care law: expanding health insurance coverage. But if the president turns his back on governors struggling to gain control of their finances by trimming their most costly program, he risks intense criticism just as his administration is locked in a battle with Republicans over the nation’s soaring debt.
“There is a growing impatience among governors,” said Mike Schrimpf, communications director for the Republican Governors Association. “As the Medicaid portion of state budgets grows, the issue becomes even more pressing.”
This week, 29 GOP governors wrote a letter asking congressional leaders for greater flexibility in spending Medicaid dollars. They say that would give them much-needed control over the soaring cost of Medicaid, often the largest single item in state budgets.
Two Republican governors are going even further. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has tangled with Democrats and their core supporters by demanding deep concessions from public employees unions, is planning to formally ask the Obama administration to allow his state to dramatically tighten Medicaid eligibility for New Jersey adults.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is weighing a similar request from Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona.
Read more at The Washington Post.