I am fairly tired of political groups using everything as a fundraising tactic. But to say I was amused when I got an email from MoveOn.org detailing Bobby Jindal's meltdown and Louisiana's lawsuit against MoveOn because they called Jindal out on blocking the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion in his state would be an understatement. Gov. Jindal and Louisiana Republicans are desperate to hide the fact that by denying a fully federally funded Medicaid expansion, they are denying health care to nearly a quarter of a million people at no cost to the state. Actually, scratch that. Jindal and the GOP in Louisiana are actually costing money to their taxpayers in the form of uncompensated care the state has to pay for when any of these 242,000 Louisianans show up in the emergency room.
I really don't care much for MoveOn.org, but at least their latest campaigns at pushing GOP states to accept the ACA's Medicaid expansion is a good first step for them to redeem themselves from shamefully having tried to kill health reform in the first place.
The bigger issue here though is neither MoveOn's past digressions nor the jerk-mode we have come to expect from the GOP since a black guy entered the White House. The bigger issue is that the fear of Obamacare is taking hold in the hearts of Republican officeholders in places as red as Louisiana. It's hard to imagine that Louisiana's lawsuit claiming that MoveOn.org is violating the state's trademark on the phrase "Pick your passion" will get anything beyond the hilarity treatment in a court of law, but the very initiation of it shows that Republicans are afraid of being exposed for not wanting to expand health care for Americans who live in poverty - so afraid that they are trying to get around the First Amendment with a lawsuit.
MoveOn's efforts are only part of the response to GOP's hostility to expanding access to affordable health care for all Americans. The Moral Monday movement, which targets state capitals hostile to voting rights, has added the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion to their agenda, and they are spreading. The arrest of these activists and Jindal's lawsuit against MoveOn all point to the same fact: the Republican party is scared of Obamacare.
The hardline GOP made a mistake in its early calculations about the Affordable Care Act. Well, they made a lot of mistakes, but this one may turn out to be most devastating. When the Supreme Court handed them a way to stay out of the Medicaid expansion, governors seeking the national limelight decided that was their chance to highlight their opposition to President Obama. But that contradicted with their message that Obamacare was changing the world's best health care system when all that really needed doing was improving access for those truly without the means.
Well, that's what Medicaid is. It's health insurance for people who make too little money to afford any kind of plans in the market. The Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act extends Medicaid to all Americans under 133% of the federal poverty level, provided their state officials aren't complete dickheads. The expansion is fully funded by the federal government for the first three years and 90% federally funded thereafter in perpetuity.
GOP's broad refusal to accept the expansion on such generous terms belies their election year talking point that they, too, care about the poor. It belies their assertion that they, too, want to reform the health care system by making sure that those at the margins of society aren't left behind first. It exposes them for the heartless, anti-reform, anti-poor party that they are. That every Republican governor seeking the 2016 GOP nomination is also seeking to deny health care to millions of Americans - 5 million in total - is no coincidence.
The Medicaid expansion is only the beginning. It is the lowest hanging fruit to put the Republicans on the defensive on health care. And that is already working. Once that happens, what will keep progressives and Democrats from taking on a Republican party already weakened by their exposed propensity to deny poor people health care and reminding voters that poor people aren't the only ones in the GOP's health care crosshairs? If the stink of denying poor people health care - along with refusing to raise the minimum wage - can be strung around the GOP's neck, their arguments against Obamacare become weak as voters begin to look at their own health care carefully and find out what other benefits provided by the ACA the GOP is trying to take away.
It's that exposure they are afraid of. Sure, Republicans don't want poor people (or anyone with any difficulty paying for it) to have health care. But you aren't supposed to know that! Already, Moral Mondays are galvanizing poor and minority voters to protect their voting rights. The last thing the GOP needs is for 2014 to become an election where minorities, young people, women, the middle class and the poor are banded together. Or else, it might look like 2012.