Attorney General Patrick Morrisey releases statement on Medicaid expansion

CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey released the following statement today on the decision to expand Medicaid coverage.

“While I have a great deal of respect for the Governor and the difficult choices he must make, I disagree with this decision.

“At a time when one of the principal authors of Obamacare (Sen. Max Baucus, D-Montana) is concerned about an implementation ‘train wreck,’ it is disappointing that West Virginia is moving in this direction. As someone who participated in the legal and legislative efforts to overturn this law, I am deeply concerned that Obamacare and this expansion will have a very negative impact on economic growth in our state and nation. That’s not what we need as federal spending slows down and places even greater pressure on West Virginia to kick start economic growth.

“Despite the federal government’s promise to pick up most of the tab, the truth is nothing in life is ever free. While paying for the state’s portion of this expansion will be daunting enough today, does anyone really believe that the federal government will maintain its same level of Medicaid funding in the future when it is staring at a $16 trillion debt and desperately needs to reduce spending? The federal matching rate for existing West Virginia Medicaid payments has been dropping in recent years as the infusion of monies from the stimulus law went away. Why do we expect that the federal government will maintain a 90 percent matching rate?

“Over the past few months, I have seen the Obama Administration fall further and further behind in implementation efforts. Due to major Obama Administration errors, West Virginians should get prepared for a bumpy ride beginning on Oct. 1. The federal government has done a very poor job preparing for open-enrollment and transitioning to new data systems. Specifically, implementation of the insurance exchanges is behind schedule, systems to determine eligibility for low-income subsidies is behind schedule, and most consumers do not even know their rights and responsibilities under this law. One recent poll suggested that 42 percent of Americans are unaware that Obamacare is law. A tremendous amount of education and implementation work is needed in a very short period of time.

“I do believe that West Virginia state officials are doing their best to mitigate harm for consumers as these implementation challenges from the Obama Administration mount. However, I fear that the Obama Administration has put our state in such a difficult position that even the most diligent state government staff work will be hard pressed to overcome the flaws of Obamacare.

“As a long-term health care attorney who has spent years working on health care reform initiatives, I strongly believe that West Virginia should take steps to address the problem of the uninsured and help the neediest in our state. However, Obamacare and this Medicaid expansion are not the best ways to accomplish these goals. We must first take steps to reduce our spiraling health care costs before committing to new, expensive, unfunded liabilities.

“Finally, while I feel strongly about this issue from a policy perspective, the Attorney General’s office will, as always, fulfill its responsibilities under the state constitution and statutes, including providing legal representation to state clients and protecting the state’s overall legal interests. Regardless of my personal opinion on a subject, we will ensure that all of our many diverse duties are met.”

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