Ruthlessly, leaders in more than half of U.S. states -- almost all of them Republicans -- seem ready to deny health insurance to 8 million "working poor" people. Here's how:
The historic 2010 U.S. Affordable Care Act was designed to extend medical coverage to 30 million lower-income Americans. Much of this improvement stems from expanding state Medicaid plans to cover families earning less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level. The expansion is to take effect Jan. 1, with the federal government paying nearly all costs.
However, when it declared the ACA constitutional, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed state officials to decide whether to join the Medicaid expansion.
Thank heaven, Gov. Tomblin accepted this humane advance, which was estimated to give health care to an estimated 120,000 more West Virginians on Jan. 1 -- and also bring billions of federal money to the Mountain State and create an estimated 6,200 state jobs. Reporter Lori Kersey pointed out that nearly 70,000 West Virginians may be eligible for the enlarged Medicaid through community health centers.
But elsewhere in America, many conservative governors and state legislatures -- mostly in southern, mountain, rural "red states" -- coldly refuse to participate. Even though the U.S. Treasury will pay all cost through 2016 and 90 percent thereafter, those "red" leaders are ready to hurt less-privileged families in their states.
New York Times researchers calculated that this foot-dragging will strip health care from about half of the working poor who might have gained coverage.
"Because they live in states largely controlled by Republicans who have declined to participate in a vast expansion of Medicaid," the national newspaper wrote, "they are among the 8 million Americans who are impoverished, uninsured and ineligible for help."
The Times noted that "every state in the Deep South ... has rejected the expansion." In those states, blacks comprise much of the underclass -- thus racism enters the picture.
Frank Rich of New York magazine wrote: "Of the 26 states that are refusing the federal Medicaid expansion -- at the price of denying their poorest citizens health care -- 23 of them have GOP governors."
Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman wrote Sunday: "How can states justify turning down a federal offer to insure thousands of their citizens, one that would cost them nothing in the first year and only trivial amounts later? Sheer spite -- the desire to sabotage anything with President Obama's name on it -- is the real reason."
One bright exception is Kentucky. Although the Bluegrass State has loud far-right representatives in Congress, Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear championed the ACA to help Kentucky's 640,000 uninsured people, one-sixth of the population.
In a commentary titled "My State Needs Obamacare. Now," Beshear wrote:
"Some 308,000 of Kentucky's uninsured -- mostly the working poor -- will be covered when we increase Medicaid eligibility guidelines to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Urban Studies Institute at the University of Louisville concluded that expanding Medicaid would inject $15.6 billion into Kentucky's economy over the next eight years, create almost 17,000 new jobs [and] have an $802.4 million positive budget impact."It's amazing that GOP governors around America are rejecting such humanitarian and economic benefits, just to prevent lower-income residents from obtaining health care.