Republican Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey accepted the yoke of expanded Medicaid funding under the terms of President Barack Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, according to a Star-Ledger report Tuesday.
Christie’s decision to embrace Obamacare this year appears to stem from overall fiscal exigencies in the 2013 State budget he presented in an annual speech before the Legislature. The budget details a disparity in the State’s real-versus-projected revenues for the year, a $473 million shortfall he’s pushing to defer until next year and a sense that accepting the inevitable expansion of Medicaid can benefit the State now, while the Federal government is paying 100 percent of the cost (a percentage that will drop to 90 percent in three years).
Christie becomes the eighth Republican Governor to cave to Obamacare. Even though he’s been an outspoken critic of the plan from the start, it’s likely he’ll negotiate the backlash of reversing his stance with far less political damage than has GOP casualty No. 7, Florida Governor Rick Scott, who has been trashed by conservatives since flip-flopping on Feb. 20.
Scott’s dour, insolent language did his image no favors last week when he relented. Taking a lesson from Scott’s public relations nightmare, Christie at least spoke directly and with more conviction when he addressed the New Jersey Legislature Tuesday:
Let me be clear, I am no fan of the Affordable Care Act. I think it is wrong for New Jersey and for America. I fought against it and believe, in the long run, it will not achieve what it promises. However, it is now the law of the land. I will make all my judgments as governor based on what is best for New Jerseyans. That is why I twice vetoed saddling our taxpayers with the untold burden of establishing health exchanges.
But in this instance, expanding Medicaid by 104,000 citizens in a program that already serves 1.4 million is the smart thing to do for our fiscal and public health. If that ever changes because of adverse actions by the Obama administration, I will end it as quickly as it started.
No, he won’t.
Considering the servile position States now occupy with respect to the Federal government and its grip on taxation and appropriations, it isn’t difficult to understand what Governors, Republican or Democrat, are hoping to gain. It’s money — money for the State that’s controlled by the Feds and, in varying degrees of generosity, rewarded to States that accept all the contingencies that attend qualifying for those cherished funds.
That’s why Christie’s plain and tough talk about where he’s drawing his next line in the sand — “If that ever changes because of adverse actions by the Obama administration, I will end it as quickly as it started” — has the same hollow ring as all the words slung in most other GOP-donkey fights. They’re misplaced. In its implementation, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act isn’t a matter of Republican-Democrat; it’s a matter of Federal-State.
With the Act’s major initiatives now becoming reality, the conservative Republican Governors who opposed Obamacare for so long are starting to realize that in a tangible way. And even though not every State will accept Obamacare, the few Governors still holding out for the right time to capitulate are really only waiting for one thing: the right, face-saving moment.