Coming To Their Senses

More conservative states are closing the coverage gap

More Conservative States Are Closing The Coverage Gap

The Supreme Court’s resounding 6-3 decision in King v. Burwell last month demonstrated that serious legal threats to the Affordable Care Act are over and the health care law is here to stay. Next up: Getting all 50 states to close the coverage gap and expand health care to low-income working people. Elected officials in the conservative states that have not expanded Medicaid may have been hoping the high court would strike a blow to the law, but now they are back to facing reality: they have no good reason to refuse federal funding to cover thousands of residents and add millions of dollars to their state economies.

Sure enough, previous holdouts are beginning to take the steps to put patients over politics. In the last few days, Alaska and Utah have announced steps toward expansion.

On Thursday, Alaska Gov. Bill Walker (I) announced he will use executive action to extend coverage to an estimated 40,000 low-income Alaskans. Walker — a former Republican who has since become an Independent — has been advocating for Medicaid expansion for over a year. Nonetheless, Republican lawmakers have repeatedly blocked efforts to approve the expansion. Now, Walker has had enough and will move forward with Medicaid expansion even without the legislature’s approval. “This is the final option for me — I’ve tried everything else,” Walker said.

On Friday, GOP leaders in Utah reached an agreement of their own to close the coverage gap. A group of six state legislative leaders have continued to meet since the end of the 2015 General Legislative Session to formulate a plan. Now, it will meet with policy makers and other stakeholders to create a formal draft in the coming weeks.

Long story short: on the map below, Alaska and Utah are bringing the number of holdout states down to just 19.


Which state will be next?

BOTTOM LINE: There has never been any moral or economic reason for conservative states to refuse to close to the coverage gap. But after King v. Burwell, conservative state officials have less and less of a political reason to hold out. Alaska and Utah have become the first states since the Supreme Court decision to put patients over politics, and it’s only a matter of time until the other holdouts come to their senses and make the right choice too.

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