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Swallowing A Bitter Pill

Opposing governors say Obamacare is here to stay

February 24, 2014
By KEN THOMAS, Associated Press , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

WASHINGTON - The explosive politics of health care have divided the nation, but America's governors, Republicans and Democrats alike, suggest that Obamacare is here to stay.

While governors from Connecticut to Louisiana sparred on Sunday over how best to improve the nation's economy, governors of both parties shared a far more pragmatic outlook on the unpopular overhaul as millions of their constituents begin to be covered.

"We're just trying to make the best of a bad situation," said Republican Gov. Terry Branstad, of Iowa, who calls the health care law "unaffordable and unsustainable," yet something he has to implement by law. "We're trying to make it work as best we can for the people of Iowa."

As governors gathered in Washington this weekend, Democratic governors such as Maryland's Martin O'Malley and Connecticut's Dannel Malloy made pitches to raise the minimum wage, while Republican governors such as Louisiana's Bobby Jindal and Indiana's Mike Pence called for more freedom from federal regulations, particularly those related to the health insurance overhaul. But governors from both parties report that a full repeal of the law would be complicated at best, if not impossible, as states move forward with implementation and begin covering millions of people - both by expanding Medicaid rolls for lower-income resident or through state or federal exchanges that offer federal subsidies to those who qualify.

Republican opposition to the law is the centerpiece of the GOP's political strategy ahead of the midterm elections. And to be sure, not every GOP leader embraced the inevitability of the law's implementation.

"I don't think that it's so deeply entrenched that it can't be repealed," Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said. "But I do think, as we argue for repeal, we have to show folks what you replace it with."

Despite a troubled rollout, nearly 3.3 million people have signed up through Feb. 1 for health care coverage under the law. The White House reported that 1 million people signed up nationwide for private insurance under the law in January alone. It remains unclear that the administration will reach its unofficial goal of 7 million people by the end of March, but it still expects several million enrollees by then.

A recent Associated Press analysis of the sign-ups found that six Republican-led states - Florida, Idaho, Maine, Michigan, North Carolina and Wisconsin - were on pace or better than the states had initially projected.

Yet Republican governors here described circumstances that would hardly befit a dream.

Democrats and Republicans alike complained about major problems with the Medicaid eligibility data that they are receiving from federal exchanges. The 36 states in the federal exchange have noted often incomplete data with the Medicaid information they are receiving.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican who is among his party's most vulnerable incumbents in the fall election, said he's working to expand his state's Medicaid program, but the process had been cumbersome and difficult. He said it still remained unclear, from a fiscal standpoint, if the health care law would be functioning in two years.

"There are a lot more unknowns than there are knowns," Corbett said.

 
 

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