Expanding Medicaid will reduce the amount of uncompensated care in the state, which is more than $800 million a year, said Tony Gregory, vice president of legislative affairs for the hospital association. Uncompensated care refers to the amount of money hospitals spend caring for patients who can't or won't pay.
"We believe [Medicaid expansion] is the right move and a step in the right direction," Gregory said.
State Senate President Jeff Kessler called Thursday a "momentous day" for the state.
"I commend Governor Tomblin on his decision to expand Medicaid to West Virginia's working families and pledge to work with him to make the program a success," Kessler said in a written statement. "The expansion will also be good for state businesses by providing a workforce that is healthier and better able to keep a job."
State Sen. Ron Stollings, D-Boone, a physician and chairman of the Senate Health and Human Resource Committee, said expansion is the right thing to do.
"I am pleased with the governor's decision and applaud him on his efforts to move West Virginia forward," Stollings said in a written statement. "Medicaid expansion will not only provide insurance to the state's working poor, it will reduce the financial burden on hospitals. When provided with insurance, West Virginians will seek medical care earlier and ultimately at a lower cost."
Not everyone was happy about the governor's announcement.
Morrisey called the decision "disappointing."
"Despite the federal government's promise to pick up most of the tab, the truth is nothing in life is ever free," Morrisey said in a written statement Thursday. "While paying for the state's portion of this expansion will be daunting enough today, does anyone really believe that the federal government will maintain its same level of Medicaid funding in the future when it is staring at a $16 trillion debt and desperately needs to reduce spending?
"The federal matching rate for existing West Virginia Medicaid payments has been dropping in recent years as the infusion of monies from the stimulus law went away," he said. "Why do we expect that the federal government will maintain a 90 percent matching rate?"
State Republican Party chairman Conrad Lucas said that by expanding Medicaid, Tomblin confirmed his allegiance to Obama.
"Today is a sad day for our health care, our families, our freedoms and the pro-life movement in this state," Lucas said in a written statement. "This means a massive expansion of government, [and] Federal control in how folks here access health care at every level."Reach Lori Kersey at lori.ker...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.