Medicaid Expansion May Be a Sleeper Issue for Democrats This Year

| Thu Jan. 23, 2014 2:41 PM EST

Once Obamacare has been in place for a while, will it become popular enough that Republicans will finally give up their opposition? Maybe, maybe not. But how about the Medicaid expansion? The evidence there might be a little clearer. Here's Greg Sargent:

The Medicaid expansion, as an issue, is kind of taking on a life of its own, independent of Big Bad Obamacare. In Louisiana, Senator Mary Landrieu has aggressively criticized the rollout of the law, but has also attacked Republicans for refusing to implement the Medicaid expansion. In Georgia, Dem Senate candidate Michelle Nunn has called for fixes to the law while also saying the state should expand Medicaid.

....Meanwhile, the expansion could hold pitfalls for Republicans, because as enrollment mounts, they may be pressed to say whether they really support taking that coverage away from people. Mitch McConnell was recently asked to comment on Kentuckians benefitting from the law, and he filibustered. The GOP Senate candidate in West Virginia is gung ho for repeal but has hedged on the expansion.

Hmmm. Jonathan Bernstein took a quick look at the websites of Republican gubernatorial challengers in blue states that have expanded Medicaid but look like possible Republican pickups. After all the appropriate caveats, he tells us what he found:

And the answer? Nada. Zip. Nothing. None of these Republicans is pledging to repeal the Medicaid expansion put in place by a Democratic governor....I don’t want to make more of this than the evidence can support. But for what it’s worth, early evidence supports the liberal optimist (and conservative pessimist) view: that where it’s in place, Medicaid expansion is here to stay.

If that’s truly the case, then sooner or later Obamacare's Medicaid component will expand to all 50 states. Eventually, every state will have a governor who is willing to embrace it. Provided that trend is not counteracted by reversals in states that were in the first wave of Medicaid expansion, we’re talking about a one-way street. The only question is how long it takes.

Pushing for Medicaid expansion in the holdout states could turn out to be a solid populist issue for Democrats this year. The argument is simple: It's free medical care and it doesn't cost the state anything. Who's against that? We'll find out later this year how well that argument works.

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