The poll, conducted between March and April by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, found that support for Medicaid expansion is somewhat divided along partisan lines. Nevertheless, a solid majority of residents in each of the five Deep South states favor expanding the public insurance program to extend coverage to additional uninsured Americans:
That public support stands in sharp contrast to the five states’ political leaders, who have resisted cooperating with health care reform at any cost. The GOP governors in each of those Southern states — Govs. Robert Bentley (R-AL), Nathan Deal (R-GA), Bobby Jindal (R-LA), Phil Bryant (R-MS), and Nikki Haley (R-SC) — have refused to expand their Medicaid programs.
“This survey clearly shows that governors and state legislators in the South who are resisting the Medicaid expansion are out-of-step with their constituents,” Brian D. Smedley, the director of the Joint Center’s Health Policy Institute, pointed out.
The broad public support for Medicaid expansion in this region makes sense. Low-income Americans in the South who don’t currently qualify for their state’s Medicaid program are being forced to simply skip out on medical care, and expanding Medicaid’s eligibility levels would ensure that they can access the health treatment they need. Deeply red Southern states also tend to have worse health outcomes compared to Democratic-controlled states on the coasts, and expanding Medicaid could help lessen some of those disparities.
But political resistance to Obamacare, even in the states that stand to benefit the most from it, remains strong. The governors in highly uninsured states are still refusing to consider cooperating with the Medicaid provision of the health reform law. And even when Republican governors reluctantly agree that Medicaid expansion is the right decision for their constituents, GOP-controlled legislatures in their states continue to block it.