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Sunday, December 4, 2016

Governor Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania is the latest Republican to retreat from the Obamacare wars.

On Thursday, the federal government approved Governor Corbett’s plan to expand Medicaid in the Keystone State, making it the 27th state in the nation to adopt the controversial provision of the Affordable Care Act. Corbett had initially opposed expanding Medicaid at all, but earlier this year he bowed to mounting political pressure by offering a plan that would expand Medicaid with a number of Republican-friendly conditions, such as a work requirement and the authority to charge premiums for recipients living below the poverty line. Those did not make it into the final deal.

The agreement should be a boon to Pennsylvania’s working poor; at least 500,000 Medicaid-eligible Pennsylvanians will now be able to sign up for coverage starting on January 1. It will also save the state $4.5 billion over the next eight years, according to Corbett (independent studies have pegged the savings to be even higher)

Corbett clearly hopes that the news will provide a political boost as well. The governor’s announcement of the agreement, which calls it “historic,” “innovative,” and “truly a Pennsylvania solution,” is just about the nicest thing that any elected Republican has ever said about the Affordable Care Act. Meanwhile, Medicaid expansion is wildly popular in Pennsylvania. And as of last week, the Republican governors on the ballot in 2014 who have adopted Medicaid expansion were polling an average of 8.5 percent better than those who hadn’t. It’s not hard to understand what prompted Corbett’s change of heart.

Unfortunately for Corbett, it’s probably too late to save his re-election campaign; the terminally gaffe-prone governor trails his Democratic challenger Tom Wolf by 16.6 percent according to the RealClearPolitics polling average. But plenty of other Republicans have also realized that it makes sense to buck the party line on Medicaid expansion. As The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent has documented, GOP senate candidates such as Scott Brown in New Hampshire, Tom Cotton in Arkansas, Joni Ernst in Iowa, Terri Lynn Land in Michigan, and Thom Tillis in North Carolina have tied themselves in knots trying to explain how they would repeal the Affordable Care Act without getting rid of any of the popular parts.

It’s almost as if voters would rather expand health care coverage than burn billions of dollars to thumb their noses at the White House.

Of course, this wasn’t supposed to happen. For over a year, Republicans have been promising that Obamacare would be the anchor that sinks every Democrat on the ballot and sparks a GOP wave in November. Instead, many Republicans are now either embracing sections of the law, or just ignoring it altogether. It appears that we can add this blown prediction to long list of Obamacare disasters that stubbornly refused to materialize.

Photo: Chesapeake Bay Program via Flickr

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