GOP Governors’ Victories End Hope For Medicaid Expansion Surge

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Things are not looking good for Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion in the wake of the GOP wave that hit governor’s races nationwide. 

In four states where a Democratic win could signify a friendlier climate for the key Obamacare provision, the GOP pulled off a win, cutting the chances that more states will begin to take part in the Medicaid expansion.

Just 27 states and Washington, D.C. decided to expand Medicaid programs after the Supreme Court struck down the portion of the Affordable Care Act that attempted to force states to accept the expansion. Many experts, Health and Human Services secretary Sylvia Burwell included, hoped Democratic wins in governor’s races would be able to shift more states into taking part in the Medicaid expansion.

“My message to governors is that if you’re interested in expanding, call me,” Burwell told the National Association of Medicaid Directors before elections Tuesday morning. But with several upset Republican victories in gubernatorial races, a large boost in participating states is unlikely.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s victory over current Democrat Charlie Crist — along with a Republican supermajority in the state legislature — has put a damper on debate over a Florida Medicaid expansion. Crist suggested that even with Florida’s Republican-controlled state legislature, he’d consider expanding the welfare program through executive order, giving expansion proponents some hope, but Scott’s victory probably closed the door on expanding the program.

In another unexpected victory, Maine Republican Gov. Paul LePage held his seat, putting an end to the possibility of a Medicaid expansion in Maine. LePage has vetoed the legislature’s attempts to accept the Obamacare expansion five times so far, and probably won’t change his mind after keeping his seat.

Gov. Scott Walker, who won against Mary Burke, also faced attacks from union-heavy Wisconsin over not expanding Medicaid. And Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, who sparked opposition for turning down the expansion, narrowly won reelection as well, likely cementing the state’s decision to forgo the central Obamacare provision.

There were some victories — Colorado Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper barely held his seat against Bob Beauprez, which is good news for the Medicaid expansion he approved last year. New Hampshire passed its Medicaid expansion in Feb. 2014 and Democratic Gov. Mary Hassan won reelection Tuesday night, but neither state was in danger of losing the expansions that had already passed.

Now, hopes of bringing Democrats into governors’ mansions nationwide to buffet the ailing Obamacare provision are likely over. States will continue to have the option to broaden Medicaid programs in the future, but a large-scale shift is unlikely.

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