In their refusal to accept Medicaid expansion for the poorest residents of their states, Republicans have shown that their priorities are politics first and people second.
President Obama's Affordable Care Act expands Medicaid, which currently only covers specific groups, to include the poorest of the poor. But Medicaid is administered by state-level governments, and the Supreme Court recently ruled that a federal bill cannot force states to expand Medicaid. It is up to the individual states to accept the expansion, and so far, close to 25 states — controlled by Republican governors or Republican state legislatures — have refused expansion, denying 5.7 million adults the healthcare that they were promised.
The one and only reason cited by these Republican states is that the costs of such a program are prohibitive. But that's simply untrue.
First of all, the federal government is paying almost all costs: 100% for the first three years and 90% per year after that. Second, states would actually benefit economically from a Medicaid expansion. A study in Alabama, one of the leading opponents of the expansion, found that by 2016, the expansion would create 12,000 new jobs and contribute to economic growth by a whopping $1.4 billion. In Pennsylvania, the nonpartisan Independent Fiscal Office (whose financial analysis has always been followed and trusted) was ignored when it informed the state government that the expansion would lead to a net decrease in state expenditures by $190 million. Texas could save $12 billion over a decade.
Third, providing affordable health care to those who cannot afford it is a smart move both economically and logically. Those who do not have health insurance usually wait until the very last minute of an illness to visit the hospital, which decreases the effectiveness of the treatment, increases their suffering, and raises costs for more intensive care. Conversely, providing health care to these populations leads to more preventative care that reduces costs while improving overall health.
No, this is not about money. The real reason that Republicans aren't accepting Medicaid expansion is because President Obama asked them to. The most damning evidence is their treatment of the Republican states who have accepted Medicaid expansion for the obvious boon it represents. Take the example of Arizona, a Republican state where expansion is close to passing. Aside from the anonymous threatening phone calls, messages, and emails from citizens that Arizona Republican politicians have received, they are also faced with name-calling (Governor Jan Brewer is a "Judas") and vague media threats that promise their "days are numbered" from their fellow Republicans.
Government exists to serve the people, not a political party. There is no reason to not expand Medicaid to ensure that the poorest among us can at least receive adequate health care, and by choosing to engage in political posturing instead, these Republican politicians are proving that they are unfit to lead their states.