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Governor’s races show Obamacare is safe

By Jonathan Bernstein

There’s more evidence Obamacare is here to stay. Take a look at the governor’s races in nine states where Republican candidates have a decent chance of replacing Democratic incumbents.

All of these states have carried out Medicaid expansions, a major part of the Affordable Care Act. But no matter how strongly these Republican candidates claim to hate Obamacare, check out their websites: Not a single one of the nine reveals any plans to roll back Medicaid expansion.

Most of them pretty much duck health care altogether, or duck it after ritual denunciations of the health care law. It gets very murky. Bob Beauprez in Colorado, for example, promises to “partner with other governors to form a pro-active coalition to stand up for Colorado and fight for health care policies that are centered on patients and doctors, not bureaucrats in Washington or Colorado.” That’s close to promising to do nothing, isn’t it? It certainly isn’t any pledge of action.

The few who aren’t ducking the issue or punting on it address it with double talk and gobbledygook. The best example is in Arkansas, where Republican candidate Asa Hutchinson put out a special statement on Medicaid expansion. He takes 450 words to moan about how horrible it is that his state had to face the issue at all and how there are no good choices, yet he winds up, after paragraphs of excuses, accepting the status quo that Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe is leaving behind.

Yes, some current Republican governors have rejected expanded Medicaid. And Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, a 2016 presidential contender who isn’t up for re-election this year, appears to be backing off the expansion in his state. There’s speculation that if he pulls the plug, it might encourage the Republicans in states that have thus far resisted the Medicaid plan to stick to their guns. On the other hand, next door in Ohio, another 2016 presidential contender, Gov. John Kasich, defended Medicaid expansion last week. And Tuesday night in North Carolina, Republican Senate candidate Thom Tillis, who is in a tight race against Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan, hinted at future support for the program in his state.

The bottom line is this: Democrats in state government are going to join expanded Medicaid whenever they can. Many Republicans won’t — but some of them will. As long as no state backtracks, eventually all 50 will be covered. Even if it takes quite a while. So for Obamacare supporters, it’s good news that no Republican who may have an opportunity as governor to roll it back is talking about any such thing.

The states are Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire and Rhode Island. I looked back in January at a similar, but somewhat different, set of candidates. I’ll note that websites never have comprehensive lists of all candidate positions, and some are more skimpy than others, but it seems likely that a campaign’s most important issues (which are also most likely the major initiatives an elected governor will undertake) would get at least a mention.

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