THE BLOG
12/31/2014 12:43 pm ET Updated Mar 02, 2015

Conservative GOP Governors Are Accepting Obamacare

Many GOP governors who loudly condemned Obamacare are secretly signing up for the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid Expansion. And they aren't just Republicans in Democrat states. A growing number are from Southern conservative states, like Alabama and Tennessee.

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam announced his state would oppose Obamacare, saying that he would rather have any money sent to his state go to private insurance, according to Bill Barrow with the Associated Press. But after getting reelected, Haslam announced that he had struck a deal that would allow that Medicaid expansion, according to Dave Boucher with The Tennessean.

Ditto Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, who once claimed that "the anything but Affordable Care Act has done nothing to gain our trust," according to Tom Baxter with Saporta Report. But there was Bentley, after getting easily reelected, claiming "he could support the expansion in the form of a block grant, with a lot of strings attached," Baxter writes.

In other red states, Republicans are doing the same, wagging a finger at Obamacare with one hand and holding out the other hand for the money. Kansas Governor Sam Brownback condemned GOP Governors for taking the Medicaid expansion money, as noted on his own website. But then, buffeted by a deficit from ill-advised tax cuts, Brownback took the money, calling it something else, in order to balance the budget, according to Salon.

It is unlikely that Representative Mike Pence cast many votes in favor of Obamacare while in Congress. But as Indiana Governor, he's signed on to the Medicaid expansion, according to Dana Milbank from the Washington Post.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer joined her name to the lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of Obamacare. But then, she signed up for the dollars from Washington, DC after dodging a primary challenge, as reported by CBS.

Florida Governor Rick Scott, another Republican, had few kind words for Obama or the ACA. But once it was clear that he wouldn't face a primary challenger, Scott took the money, according to the Miami Herald, hoping to boost his reelection chances. He was able to hold onto the Governor's Mansion in Tallahassee as a result.

And it was Ohio Governor John Kasich who called for repealing Obamacare, well, at least most of it. Now he's saying it is here to stay, as noted by CNN, and other Republicans better get used to it being around.

Michael Hiltzik with the Los Angeles Times is reporting that even Texas is considering the Medicaid expansion, modeled after Utah's acceptance of the ACA plan.

There are a few reasons for this. While the House of Representatives and Senate can pass repeal after repeal votes, governors have to balance budgets. Also, many of these governors talk the conservative talk to beat back or forestall Tea Party primary challengers. Given that only a dwindling number of these are succeeding, there's no need to kowtow to this group after reelection. They can use some creative accounting to accept the money, or call it something else so it will have a lower profile (Alabama could call it Bamacare, for example).

Of course, this is bound to infuriate the most conservative members of the Republican Party, but only if they are paying attention. Besides, this is still the party of Jeb Bush, who was linked to a firm that benefited from Obamacare, as reported by The Daily Mail. It's also the party of Mitt Romney, whose Romneycare had many similarities to Obamacare, according to health expert Brad Burd.

John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga. He can be reached at jtures@lagrange.edu.