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January 24th, 2014 2:29 pm
ObamaCare’s Medicaid Expansion Poses Risks for GOP Candidates

For all the attention given to Obamacare’s federal and state exchanges it’s easy to forget that expanding Medicaid remains the single biggest way the controversial law intends to increase the amount of people covered by health insurance.

And unlike the private plans available on the exchanges, every new Medicaid enrollee is completely dependent on the government.

In states where Democratic lawmakers chose to expand Medicaid under Obamacare, the spike in enrollments could pose problems for Republican candidates.

Greg Sargent, after noting that around 75,000 people have signed up for expanded Medicaid in West Virginia, asks, “How would the GOP Senate candidate in West Virginia, Rep. Shelley More Capito, respond if asked directly if she would take insurance away from all these people?”

Sargent’s liberal frame is sure to be echoed in the 2014 election as Democrats try to portray Republicans as heartless skinflints. In this telling, the only options are either to embrace Obamacare’s massive expansion of the welfare state or return to the status quo of sizeable numbers of people unable to get health insurance. (To combat this framing, Republicans should unite around an already existing proposal that gives them the upper hand.)

But that’s at the federal level. More locally, GOP gubernatorial candidates in states that (1) expanded Medicaid and (2) appear most likely to elect a Republican governor are staying mum about repealing Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.

“None of these Republicans is pledging to repeal the Medicaid expansion put in place by a Democratic governor,” according to Jonathan Bernstein.

As Bernstein puts it, “Liberals assume that once benefits are extended, no government will take them away.”

Unless Republicans at the state level show the kind of policy moxie exhibited by Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, that prediction might come true.

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