State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

The politics of Medicaid expansion

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Mar 7, 2013 9:59 PM
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Photo by Mary Wilson / witf


As state lawmakers wrap up three weeks of budget hearings, the issue of a possible Medicaid expansion has come up framed as a matter of dollars and cents. But the possible political ramifications also loom over the issue.

Democrats have been hammering the governor on the issue of a Medicaid expansion. They support it and, in recent weeks, it looks like Corbett could be swayed. He's supposed to meet with federal authorities to go over what an expansion could mean for Pennsylvania.

But Bruce Castor, a Republican Montgomery County Commissioner mulling a challenge to Corbett in 2014, said accepting the Medicaid expansion is only wise if Corbett's sure he's the "only game in town."

"It's a good political strategy if you're running a general election campaign but Governor Corbett was elected on a conservative platform," said Castor.

Castor has a point, if you ask Muhlenberg College political scientist and pollster Chris Borick.

"This may be the first test of the governor in really establishing some type of strength going into that Republican primary season next year," said Borick. It's not that Corbett would be smooth sailing in a general election - Borick points to recent polls that show the governor's anemic approval ratings. But shoring up support from his base might be the more immediate need. "That's the first order of business for him and that I believe plays an enormous role in his ultimate decision to forgo Pennsylvania joining this expansion."

He said Corbett needs to avoid risks like a primary challenger who asserts the governor's not conservative enough.
"Going against the expansion of Medicaid really does establish an opportunity for him to have one clear piece of policy," said Borick. It's a policy decision that just might resonate with the staunch conservatives who tend to show up for Pennsylvania primary elections.

And if not - well, Castor is poised to enter the race if he sees a change of heart on the Medicaid expansion by the end of April.

"That would be a position changed that would dramatically in my judgment show that the governor's conservative principles are not in keeping with where I think Republicans in Pennsylvania want him to be," said Castor.

Published in State House Sound Bites

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