- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 22, 2014

Sen. Chris Murphy argued Thursday that people are dying because Republicans want to stick it to President Obama and thwart his signature health care law.

Mr. Murphy, Connecticut Democrat and the Senate’s top cheerleader for Obamacare of late, said millions more Americans could be covered if Republican-led states decided to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

Many GOP governors and state lawmakers have opted not to expand the federal-state entitlement, citing future costs and the program’s inefficiency.

Mr. Murphy fought back in a speech on the Senate floor, citing the death of “Charlene,” a Florida woman who struggled to pay for her heart medication.

“They have made a decision for political reasons to keep hundreds of thousands of people like Charlene amongst the ranks of the uninsured,” he said of Obamacare’s Republican foes.

Under the health care law, states are supposed to expand Medicaid to people making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. The feds will pick up the full tab for the expanded population in 2014-2016 before scaling back their contribution to 90 percent in 2020 and beyond.

But the Supreme Court made the expansion optional in its landmark Obamacare decision of 2012.

While some Republican governors have accepted the funding or launched market-oriented twists on the expansion, nearly half the states have turned it down.

Obamacare’s supporters say non-expansion states have created an odd situation in which some people make too much to get Medicaid, yet earn too little to gain subsidies on the new health exchanges, which are reserved for people making 100 percent to 400 percent of poverty.

Mr. Murphy said the refusing states are passing up a good deal and allowing their own constituents’ federal tax dollars to flow to other states.

“It doesn’t make any sense from a health care standpoint and certainly doesn’t make any sense from a fiscal standpoint,” Mr. Murphy said.