POLITICS

Pennsylvania's GOP Governor Flips To Support Obamacare Medicaid Expansion: Reports

09/12/2013 05:13 pm ET | Updated Sep 13, 2013

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett may be the 10th Republican governor to back a Medicaid expansion in his state under President Barack Obama's health care reform law, according to reports.

Corbett declared in February that Pennsylvania wouldn't open Medicaid to more poor people under the law, but he will reverse that position and support a version of the expansion, Lancaster Online reported Thursday, citing anonymous sources. Corbett will make a Medicaid announcement soon, two Corbett aides confirmed to PoliticsPA.

A Medicaid expansion would provide health coverage to 682,000 people in Pennsylvania, according to the Lancaster Online report. Not counting Pennsylvania, 24 states and the District of Columbia plan to broaden Medicaid under Obamacare starting next year.

By supporting the Medicaid expansion, Corbett would join fellow Republican governors, including neighbors Chris Christie in New Jersey and John Kasich in Ohio, in bucking GOP resistance to the health care reform law. Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) also initially opposed the Medicaid expansion before changing course.

Although a handful of Republican governors have backed the Medicaid expansion, most Republicans refuse to enlarge the program in their states. Kasich and Gov. Rick Scott of Florida haven't been able to move Medicaid expansion bills through their Republican-majority legislatures, as Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder have.

The Pennsylvania Senate approved legislation in June that would have expanded Medicaid but the state House stripped it from the bill the following month.

Corbett has been eyeing a form of Medicaid expansion that would restructure the program in his state. He favors reforms such as enrolling Medicaid beneficiaries into private health insurance plans, similar to legislation enacted in Arkansas, Iowa and Michigan this year, and wants to add requirements such as new co-payments for medical treatments, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

"Corbett will not expand this broken entitlement program without significant reforms being agreed to by the Federal Government and assurances that a plan would be fiscally sustainable now and moving forward," Corbett's campaign manager, Mike Barley, told PoliticsPA.

Kelli Roberts, a spokeswoman for Corbett, didn't immediately respond to an email from the Huffington Post seeking comment.

Obama's health care law calls for opening Medicaid to anyone who earns up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level, which is $15,282 for a single person in 2013. When the Supreme Court upheld the law last year, however, justices ruled that states could opt out of the expansion, which about half now plan to do. There is no deadline and states can enact the Medicaid expansion at any time.

The federal government will pay the full costs of people newly enrolled under the Medicaid expansion from 2014 to 2016, after which the share gradually diminishes to 90 percent in 2022 and future years.

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