By Jonathan Easley - 02/25/14 12:45 PM EST
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius lashed out Tuesday at the governors in five Southern states, and Rick Perry (R-Texas) in particular, for “playing politics with people’s lives” by refusing to expand Medicaid under ObamaCare.
Speaking in an interview on HuffPostLive, Sebelius called their decisions “an outrage,” and urged the constituents of those states to pressure their legislatures and let their governors know this is “not acceptable.”
“That’s an outrage,” she continued. “It should be a conversation in every community, in every town hall, in every church group and every PTA program to put pressure on the governors and legislatures to say, this is not acceptable.”
Sebelius singled out Perry and Texas, arguing that 23 percent of Texans have no health insurance at all.
“The governor declared three years ago that he wanted no part of the Affordable Care Act; he was not going to participate,” she said. “They’ve put up barriers to giving people accurate information, and it has nothing to do with the constituents who live in that state. It’s really about his own ideological battle with the president of the United States, and unfortunately in this case, people’s health is at stake, and people’s lives are potentially at stake.”
Sebelius said that so far 31 states — nearly a dozen of them run by Republican governors — have either accepted the Medicaid expansion under ObamaCare outright or worked with the administration to design an expansion that caters to a particular state's specific needs.
However, the private-option workaround HHS has approved for some states has run into roadblocks. In Arkansas, the GOP-run legislature has refused to pass a plan agreed upon by HHS and Gov. Mike Beebe (D).
And Florida’s Republican Gov. Rick Scott initially supported the Medicaid expansion but reversed course when he announced in December that he was running for reelection. The expansion has failed once in the Florida state house, but the legislature plans to reconsider.
Republican governors and legislators argue the policy would ultimately drain state coffers by increasing Medicaid rolls, and they fear the federal government won’t keep its funding promise, leaving them on the hook.
Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government pays 100 percent of the costs of the state’s expansion for the first year, and most states wouldn’t pay more than 10 percent in future years.