CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has some questions he needs answered before he can make a decision about Medicaid expansion.
To that end, Tomblin on Thursday sent a letter outlining those questions about expanding Medicaid to Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, according to a statement from Tomblin.
While the Supreme Court late last month largely upheld the Affordable Care Act, the court threw out a provision requiring states to expand Medicaid to 138 percent of the federal poverty line.
States now have the option about whether to expand. The federal government will fully fund the expansion for the first three years, should the state so chose.
Tomblin called the decision "significant."
"On the one hand, the expansion would cover well over 100,000 hard-working West Virginians and would in turn allow them to begin receiving appropriate diagnosis and treatment at a much earlier stage," Tomblin said in a prepared statement. "In a state where heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic health conditions occur at levels far too high, this type of access to health care could provide meaningful improvements to the health of our citizens.
"It also has the potential to reduce health-care costs in the future, saving taxpayer dollars and keeping insurance premiums and co-pays lower."
Tomblin also must decide whether the state can afford the expansion in the long run, he said, adding that the federal government's fiscal path is not sustainable.
"I am very cautious in relying on their future funding promises," Tomblin said. "Before a final decision is made, West Virginia must have a plan for the long-term sustainability of any type of Medicaid expansion. Right now, we don't have the information necessary to make the decision."
Bill Maloney, the Republican candidate running against Tomblin for governor, issued a statement after Tomblin's announcement.
"Like a typical, career politician, Earl Ray Tomblin spent the largest budget in state history, and now Earl Ray and Barack Obama are working together to grow government even more," Maloney said. "He supports ObamaCare, the largest tax increase in history, and he will burst our state budget to pay for it.
"I will work to repeal ObamaCare, and I will work to improve accessibility and affordability in our health care system through private-sector, patient-centered solutions."
Still, Tomblin has not said publicly that he supports the health-care reform law.
Like U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Tomblin has sought to distance himself from Obama. Tomblin has not said whether he would vote to re-elect the president and does not plan to attend the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte in September.