- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Nearly three dozen Democrats have forged a congressional caucus to call on Republican-led states to expand Medicaid under President Obama’s health care law.

Rep. Steve Cohen, Tennessee Democrat, unveiled the 34-member group by calling on his home state to augment the health program for the poor, as 27 other states have done.

“Studies have even shown that thousands of Americans each year will die avoidable deaths because of lack of access to Medicaid,” he said. “That is unacceptable.”

The Affordable Care Act calls on states to extend Medicaid benefits to those making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $15,800 for an individual and $32,500 for a family of four.

The federal government is slated to pay for 100 percent of the expanded population in 2014-2016 before scaling down its contribution to 90 percent in 2020 and beyond.

In 2012, the Supreme Court said states may choose not to expand Medicaid without losing existing federal funding for the entitlement program.

Many, but not all, Republican-led states have declined to expand, citing future costs and doubts the federal government will live up to its end of the deal. Conservative governors who entertain the expansion also risk political attacks for embracing a pillar of Obamacare.

Yet Republican governors such as Jan Brewer of Arizona and Chris Christie of New Jersey have decided to expand the program, saying it is the compassionate thing to do and will benefit their state economies.

“It is immoral for our state to not provide this basic necessity to those who need it desperately, especially when the vast majority of the cost is covered by the Affordable Care Act,” Mr. Cohen said.