CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Calling it the state's best option, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced Thursday that the state will expand its Medicaid program under the federal Affordable Care Act.
"Although we may not agree with every provision of the ACA, I must make a decision for West Virginia based on the circumstances presented to me," Tomblin said during a press conference Thursday. "At the end of the day we have weighed the options and believe expanding Medicaid is the best choice for West Virginia."
Medicaid eligibility requirements will be expanded to include state residents who make up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.
Under the expansion, Medicaid coverage would be extended to include a family of four making up to $32,500, or a single person making up to $15,856.
Under the ACA, the federal government will pay the total costs of expansion for the first three years. After that the federal government's share would gradually drop to 90 percent.
State officials say if the federal government goes back on the promise of funding, the state "may be forced to discontinue providing health-care benefits to the expansion population."
Speaking at a press conference Thursday, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said he feels "absolute, sheer happiness" about the expansion of Medicaid.
He praised the time and diligence the governor took to reach that decision.
Rockefeller said Tomblin is right to question the federal government's commitment to funding.
"Why would a governor necessarily believe what the Congress says?" Rockefeller said. "And so he's quite proper to take the caution and to review again, but we're not going to fold on that one.
"This is a commitment to the American public which makes so much financial sense," he said.