Governors in Arizona and North Dakota this week joined their Republican counterparts in Nevada and New Mexico in supporting health reform’s Medicaid expansion in their state. Governors who have not decided whether their state should expand — and those who have previously opposed expansion — should look to these governors who recognized that not only is the expansion a good deal for states, but it will benefit their states in other important ways.
In Arizona, Governor Jan Brewer’s proposal for expanding Medicaid is projected to save the state $353 million over the next three years, while providing coverage to nearly 250,000 more Arizonans. Governor Brewer also notes that because the neighboring states of California, Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico plan to expand their Medicaid programs, if Arizona were to forego the influx of federal dollars while continuing to expose its hospitals to rising uncompensated care costs, it could be at an economic disadvantage as compared to its neighbors.
In Nevada, Governor Brian Sandoval projects that expanding Medicaid will save his state $17 million over the next two years. A large chunk of these savings will come in the state’s mental health programs since an expanded Medicaid (with its generous federal match) will provide comprehensive health coverage to the individuals that these programs now serve entirely at state cost.
To be sure, other governors continue to oppose the Medicaid expansion. But the price of forgoing the expansion — through higher rates of uninsurance, a less healthy workforce, and rising uncompensated care costs — could put them at a competitive disadvantage with states that do expand Medicaid.