CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, like many governors around the country, is contemplating the decision whether or not to expand Medicaid coverage to low-income working people.
The expansion is part of the Affordable Care Act and would raise the eligibility level for health coverage under Medicaid to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.
As things now stand, Medicaid eligibility here is very low, at around 35 percent of the federal poverty level. A family of three can't earn more than $7,000 per year to qualify. Low-income people who aren't parents can't get Medicaid at all unless they are disabled or over age 65.
Total costs of the expansion for the first three years will be completely paid for by the federal government. After that, the federal share will be 90 percent.
Here are some reasons to consider expanding coverage to people who work hard every day provided not by the usual suspects, but by six conservative Republican governors who have already made that decision:
* Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval was the first to make the call back in mid-December. After looking at the math, he discovered that not expanding the program would actually cost his state $16 million. "All in all, it makes the best sense for the state to opt in. This is a way for me to protect these people."
* In early January, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez came to the same conclusion, saying, "We have an obligation to provide an adequate level of basic health care services for those most in need in our state. However, we also have an obligation to ensure our state's financial security. In deciding to expand Medicaid, I weighed every possible outcome and impact. Ultimately, this decision comes down to what is best for New Mexicans."
* The following week, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, perhaps best known for harsh anti-immigrant legislation, turned some heads when she declared that "Saying 'No' to this plan would not save these federal dollars from being spent or direct them to bringing down the deficit. ... By agreeing to expand our Medicaid program just slightly, we will protect rural and safety-net hospitals from being pushed to the brink."