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Medicaid Expansion Shows Good Policy Trumps Bad Politics

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stethoscope_smal.jpgOne aspect of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) that is getting a lot more press coverage lately is the Medicaid expansion. Under the Affordable Care Act, states have the option to expand the Medicaid program to provide health-care coverage to more low-income people.

If Medicaid is expanded, millions of uninsured American women would qualify for health-care coverage. People covered under the expanded program will receive access to maternity and newborn care and women's preventive-health services, including contraception and well-woman visits.

Making health-care services more accessible for low-income women could improve their lives in a big way. Low-income women are more likely to experience health problems but often face roadblocks that prevent them from accessing the care they need.

It's sort of a no-brainer for states to expand Medicaid programs to more people. Under the law, the federal government will pay the costs completely until 2016. After that, states only need to cover 10 percent of the costs.

Given that local health-care providers often treat low-income people who can't fully cover the cost of their health care, these added resources will help pay for health-care services that local doctors and hospitals are already providing. The whole thing helps people stay healthy and makes good financial sense.

However, the Supreme Court left it up to the states to decide whether to expand Medicaid. Many anti-choice governors railed against the expansion and announced they would refuse the offer in their states.

But in an interesting turn of events, several anti-choice governors who had opposed Obamacare are now supporting expanding Medicaid in their state. Do we smell political opportunism in the air?

Anti-choice Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) is the most recent convert. Funny, because he eliminated family-planning funding from New Jersey's budget and twice vetoed efforts to restore it. He also blocked efforts to expand coverage of family-planning service for low-income women. But now he stands behind expanding Medicaid in his state.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) has never met an anti-choice law she didn't like. However, not long after two of her key advisors left to lead a coalition of hospitals, insurers, and other providers supporting the policy, Brewer too decided to back expanding Medicaid.

Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) was one of the most outspoken opponents to the Affordable Care Act, and even spearheaded efforts to challenge its constitutionality before the Supreme Court. But even he has reversed his position to support expanding the Medicaid program.

Clearly, even some anti-choice politicians can't deny that getting more people insured through Obamacare just makes common sense. Will these same people start to see the error of their ways and stop attacks on other aspects of women's health? We won't hold our breath.

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