Why Tom Corbett Decided to Enter into the Medicaid Expansion Debate

by J. Wesley Leckrone

Associate Professor of Political Science, Widener University

Governor Corbett is generally cautious in most of his initiatives. By that I mean he seems to adopt the consensus position of conservative public officials. Consequently, I think he waited so long to see if a consensus position would develop among Republican governors for dealing with Medicaid expansion. By taking this wait and see approach he could monitor how the activities of other governors played out politically before taking a stand himself. There are enough GOP governors that have broken ranks and accepted Medicaid (Christie, Brewer, Synder) that he’s not completely breaking with conservative orthodoxy by offering the new plan.

I think he’s offering the new plan for three reasons: 1) Democrats are going to say that by not accepting the Medicaid extension Corbett is costing the state jobs in the health care industry. That could resonate in a sluggish economy. 2) It helps position him to the center of Tea Party type conservatives.  By offering a plan that extends healthcare, but through private companies rather than Medicaid, Corbett can say that he’s not opposed to all government action, rather he wants smart government action based on market principles. If the plan fails he can blame it on obstructionism from the Obama Administration. 3) He needs some sort of momentum going into 2014. The appearance of a plan, in the face of opposition from his own party, gives some evidence to suburban independents that he cares about the needy, especially in light of education cuts.

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