President Obama just got turned down by America’s governors. Obama wanted governors to endorse his proposed overhaul of health care, but ran into opposition over the runaway costs, as reported by The New York Times. Instead he got this:
Gov. Phil Bredesen of Tennessee, a Democrat, said he feared Congress was about to bestow “the mother of all unfunded mandates.”
“Medicaid is a poor vehicle for expanding coverage,’ added Mr. Bredesen, a former health care executive. “It’s a 45-year-old system originally designed for poor women and their children. It’s not health care reform to dump more money into Medicaid.”
Mr. Bredesen was far from alone in his concern. “As a governor, my concern is that if we try to cost-shift to the states we’re not going to be in a position to pick up the tab,” said Gov. Christine Gregoire of Washington, also a Democrat.
“I’m personally very concerned about the cost issue, particularly the $1 trillion figures being batted around,” said Gov. Bill Richardson, the New Mexico Democrat who served in the Clinton cabinet and ran for president against Mr. Obama.
Governors worry that Obama’s plan for a major expansion of Medicaid not only will break the bank in Washington, but also in the states—since they would be required to kick in part of the costs. That would worsen the multi-billion dollar shortfalls they already must address. Problems with the governors could be enormous for the White House. As The Heritage Foundation’s Dennis Smith wrote:
Congress and the Obama Administration are banking on using Medicaid to provide coverage to millions of uninsured Americans. As many as one-third of those who are uninsured could end up on Medicaid if it is expanded to 150 percent of the federal poverty level. . . . State opposition could be a tremendous blow to health care reform. Governors can be game-changers if they mobilize before momentum is built behind specific legislation that expands Medicaid.