A slew of Republican governors are eligible for reelection in 2018 (Doug Ducey in Arizona, Asa Hutchinson in Arkansas, Bruce Rauner in Illinois, Larry Hogan in Maryland, Charlie Baker in Massachusetts, Pete Ricketts in Nebraska, Chris Sununu of New Hampshire, Greg Abbott of Texas, Phil Scott of Vermont and Scott Walker of Wisconsin). An additional 15 are retiring, term-limited or nominated for jobs in the Trump administration. That is a lot of gubernatorial seats to defend in 2018, and things could get dicey if millions in their collective states lose health-care coverage.
That brings us to the battle over “repeal and delay.” Hutchinson, according to one report, “supports the repeal of the federal healthcare law but favors some form of continuation of federal funds to keep Arkansans covered by Medicaid expansion insured.” So that would be repeal (but not really) and then replace. Ohio Gov. John Kasich is term-limited but surely wants a Republican to succeed him. The Hill reports:
“There’s room for improvement, but to repeal and not to replace, I just want to know what’s going to happen to all those people who find themselves left out in the cold,” Kasich told reporters Wednesday, according to audio provided by his office.
He pointed to the roughly 700,000 people who have gained coverage under ObamaCare’s expansion of Medicaid in Ohio.
“Let’s just say they got rid of it and didn’t replace it with anything, what happens to those 700,000 people?” Kasich said. “What happens to drug treatment, what happens to mental health counseling?”
Gov. Rick Snyder is termed out but also would like to see Republicans keep the governorship. The Detroit News reports:
“Going beyond [repeal] there’s no clear schedule,” he said. “Some Republicans are saying: Give us three years and we’ll work on it — which I think is tantamount to saying give us three years and we’ll forget about it. Others are saying: No, we’ve got to get it done in 2017 or we’ll lose some political momentum, and I think there’s some truth in that.”
Republican governors like Snyder who expanded Medicaid eligibility to up to 133 percent of the poverty level under Democratic President Barack Obama are expected to play an important role in the debate. Trump takes office Jan. 20 with repeal-minded GOP majorities in both the U.S. House and Senate.
“I think it’s important that as they look at the Affordable Care Act … I hope they carefully look at the success we’ve had in Michigan, because we didn’t just do Medicaid expansion,” Snyder told The Detroit News in a year-end interview.
“We put requirements for health and wellness on the front ends, and personal responsibility. We’re seeing a huge increase in coverage,” but also a huge drop in the number of people showing up at hospitals without insurance — a positive trend, Snyder said.
So there’s another governor who sees a problem with “repeal and then let’s see.”
Sure enough, a lot of GOP governors hold office in states (Illinois, Arkansas, New Mexico, Ohio, etc.) that expanded Medicaid. A repeal of Obamacare and the funds that support it would mean those states could lose federal funding, leaving them faced with the untenable task between dropping coverage or paying both halves of the Medicaid cost for those in the band of expanded coverage. And that’s just the people on expanded Medicaid. There would also be millions across the country who lose subsidies. Are the states supposed to deal with those people, too?
Repeal without a ready replacement may cause chaos in the states, disproportionately harming Republicans (who control 33 governorships). The hardship and financial wreckage that may be caused would leave Republicans in state houses and governors mansions with the task of cleaning up the mess and getting blamed if their brethren in Washington leave them in limbo.
House Speaker Paul Ryan insists that people are “hurting” now under Obamacare. That may be, but they will hurt more if they lose coverage or have to live with the threat of lost coverage. “Our goal here is to improve people’s lives, is have a healthcare system that actually works, is to have a healthcare system where families actually have more choices, where they have freedom, where they can have more competition and lower prices. And so this is why we’re doing this: Stop the damage from getting worse.” Terrific. So where is the plan that can make things better and be passed by Congress? Voters aren’t supposed to just take his word for it, are they?