Governors in both parties undecided on whether to expand Medicaid; seeking answers to several questions

There is hesitation among governors on both sides of the aisle regarding whether or not to expand Medicaid, which would cover millions more Americans under the program for the poor and disabled.

“At least seven Democratic governors have been noncommittal about their willingness to go along,” N.C. Aizenman and Karen Tumulty report for The Washington Post. Gov. Steve Beshear has not indicated whether he will expand coverage in Kentucky, but previously expressed concerns about the costs associated with the move, and state House Republican Leader Jeff Hoover has said he should not. Kentucky would have to start paying part of the extra cost in 2017, and 10 percent of it by 2020. Several Republican governors have said they will not participate, while others say they have not decided.

The issue is surely a major discussion topic at the National Governors Association meeting this week in Williamsburg, Va. Questions remain unanswered: “Will states that opt in have the option of scaling back in future years? If a state that opts out decides it wants to participate at some later point, will the federal government still pay nearly the full cost of covering those who become newly eligible for Medicaid? And can a state participate only partially — for instance, by raising the income cutoff for its program to a level lower than the ceiling envisioned in the law, which is set at 133 percent of the federal poverty line?” Aisenman and Tumulty ask.

NGA Executive Director Dan Crippen said states are confused over what to do. The association has sent a list of questions to Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius about the issue. “States need to be making these decisions now, and it’s hard to make them if you don’t have clarity,” said Matt Salo, director of the National Association of Medicaid Directors.

Sebelius has said she will address concerns during meetings that will take place in various cities starting July 31. There is no deadline yet for when states must choose whether or not to expand. (Read more)

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