Health chief 'eager' to expand ObamaCare with new governors

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia BurwellSylvia Mathews BurwellOvernight Healthcare: GOP chairman to introduce pre-existing condition bill ObamaCare enrollment hits 11.5M for 2017 Obama, Dems eyeing strategy to defend ObamaCare MORE is making a new push for governors who have not expanded Medicaid to embrace the options made available under ObamaCare.

In a speech to the National Association of Medicaid Directors (NAMD), Burwell called the expansion one of her "top priorities" at HHS and asked any governors elected on Tuesday to reach out if they are interested in discussing their options.

ADVERTISEMENT
While Burwell emphasized that she is "not a politician," her Election Day speech built off the idea that some states will gain new leaders who might be more open to working with the Obama administration.

"We're eager and willing to work with states that have yet to expand," Burwell told the NAMD conference near Washington, D.C., according to prepared remarks.

"My message to governors is that, 'If you're interested in expanding, call me.' And to those governors who are about to get elected or reelected today, my message is that 'I'm happy to meet with you before your inauguration.' "

Democrats running in five competitive governors races this year have promised to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

If those candidates win Tuesday night in Florida, Maine, Kansas, Wisconsin and Georgia, the program could see 1.7 million more beneficiaries once they take office.

The Medicaid expansion is the final frontier in the administration's effort to implement ObamaCare completely.

Twenty-seven states and the District of Columbia have accepted the expansion, but federal health officials say they won't stop until eligibility is widened in every state.

Burwell acknowledged another challenge facing state Medicaid programs: the process of renewing enrollments and adding new ones with systems that can be unreliable.

"We want to be certain that whatever system issues continue through this year, that states have appropriate mitigations in place so that these issues do not have a negative impact on consumers," Burwell said.

"I’d like to see regular progress as we map out longer-term systemic improvements with assurances that until those improvements are fully in place that adequate and appropriate workarounds allow eligible people to enroll and stay enrolled for as long as they are eligible," she said.