U.S. Republican battles over Medicaid turn to God and morality

June 27, 2013

(A patient waits in the hallway for a room to open up in the emergency room at Ben Taub General Hospital in Houston, Texas, July 27, 2009.  REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi )

Ohio’s Republican governor, John Kasich, is no fan of President Barack Obama’s health reform law. But he has become an unlikely proponent of one element of Obamacare – expansion of Medicaid healthcare coverage for the poor – and he has a warning for his fellow party members about the moral consequences of blocking it.

“When you die and get to the meeting with St. Peter, he’s probably not going to ask you much about what you did about keeping government small, but he’s going to ask you what you did for the poor. You’d better have a good answer,” Kasich, a Christian conservative, says he told one Ohio lawmaker last week.

“I can’t go any harder than that. I’ve got nothing left.”

Most Republicans oppose Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as a costly, ineffective and unnecessary expansion of government. But some Republican governors, like Arizona’s Jan Brewer and Michigan’s Rick Snyder, have broken ranks to embrace the law’s Medicaid expansion as a practical way to help the poor while infusing their state budgets with billions of dollars in federal funding to pay for it.

Kasich has gone further. His message of morality goes straight to the Republican Party’s allegiance to traditional American values including charity, and should resonate with religious conservatives within its influential Tea Party faction.

“Those groups are important to the Republican Party these days, and thus religious appeals may well help GOP governors win approval from their colleagues in the legislature,” said John Green, political science professor at the University of Akron in Ohio.

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