Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear (D) said Thursday that analysts told him the state “couldn’t afford” not to expand Medicaid.
So far 25 states, all of which are run by either a Republican governor or have at least one GOP-controlled chamber in the legislature, are not expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) compared the risk he sees in expanding the program to “putting 1,000 more people on the Titanic” — although Texas would forfeit $9.6 billion in matching funds by rejecting the expansion.
Asked by MSNBC host Thomas Roberts how he would respond to governors who argue their states can’t afford to expand Medicaid, Beshear said he originally shared that concern.
“You know I had that question, too,” he responded. “I knew it was morally the right thing to do, but I wanted to make sure that the state could afford to do it.”
Beshear said he asked outside experts, including accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, to look into whether expanding Medicaid in the state was feasible.
“They came back in about six months, looked me in the eye and said ‘Governor, you can’t afford not to do this,'” he said. “They said ‘It’s going to infuse over the next eight years about $15 billion into your economy. You’re going create about 17,000 new jobs and your budget is going to improve by about $800 million.'”
With those assurances, Beshear said, it was full steam ahead.
“Those 640,000 people are out here working every day, making a living, supporting their families,” he said, referring to the state’s high number of uninsured residents. “But they get up each day and roll the dice and just hope and pray they don’t get sick. Because they know they’re one bad diagnosis away from bankruptcy. No one deserves to live like that.”
This post has been updated.
Catherine Thompson is a senior editor for Talking Points Memo in New York City. She came to the site in 2013 and reported on national affairs. Previously, she worked as a research assistant to investigative reporter Wayne Barrett. She can be reached at email@example.com.