Stateline Story

Connecticut, D.C. Leap at Medicaid Expansion

Only Connecticut and the District of Columbia have jumped at the chance to expand Medicaid under the new federal health care law — a move that could save both jurisdictions tens of millions of dollars.

According to The Washington Post , the District of Columbia on Thursday (May 13) applied to the federal government to shift 35,000 residents from an existing city health care program to Medicaid, the joint federal-state health insurance program for the poor. The move is expected to save the nation's capital $56 million over the next four years.

The Post noted that Connecticut is the only other jurisdiction so far to apply for the Medicaid expansion, which is available to all states immediately but isn't required until 2014. Connecticut submitted its application in April, and Republican Governor M. Jodi Rell said it would save the state $53 million over the next 15 months, while adding about 45,000 individuals to the Medicaid rolls.

"Any state can do this right away," a District of Columbia health care official told the Post .

The federal health care law has been a well-documented point of contention in the states, where many Republican governors and attorneys general have challenged the statute in court. Idaho and Virginia have passed laws making it illegal for their residents to be required to buy health insurance, a key provision of the new law. And ballot questions in several states could ask voters to reject key portions of it.

But other aspects of the law are being put into place by many states, and not just in Democratic-led states. As the Post notes, "Twenty-nine states and the District said they are willing to set up federally subsidized high-risk pools for people with preexisting health conditions, according to federal officials. An additional 18 said they will allow the federal government to run the high-risk pools for them."