Tomblin takes right stand on Medicaid

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has resisted enormous political pressure to do the right thing for West Virginians – all of us – regarding the Medicaid program. But the squeeze on Tomblin has increased, courtesy of a group of Democrat legislators.

So effective has been arm twisting by President Barack Obama and other Democrat Party leaders that virtually all the nation’s Democrat governors have caved in on the Medicaid question. Tomblin is one of just two who have held out.

Last Tuesday, the lawmakers held a news conference to kick off a campaign they call “Our Children, Our Future.” The initiative is intended to fight child poverty in West Virginia.

That certainly is a worthy cause. In some ways it is the most important challenge facing our state – as it has been for decades.

Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, has focused on the problem for several years, to his great credit. “It’s not only the right thing to do from a moral and social standpoint, it’s the right thing to do from a tax standpoint,” Kessler said.


But how to go about lifting children and families out of poverty is a controversial question. The traditional Democrat answer has been more expensive government programs.

Since the late President Lyndon Johnson launched his “War on Poverty” during the mid-1960s, hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent on government anti-poverty programs. Yet the crisis persists. The U.S. poverty rate actually has increased during the past few years.

More effective is building the economy to provide more jobs. A direct correlation exists between periods of high unemployment and times when poverty rates have spiked. And the economy tends to thrive when government takes less money from us in taxes.

One goal of the “Our Children, Our Future” campaign is to convince Tomblin to go along with President Barack Obama’s health care law and expand the Medicaid program in West Virginia. That would add about 130,000 people to the program, which provides health care benefits.

Tomblin has good reason for proceeding with extreme caution, however. West Virginia’s budget already is strained to the breaking point by the existing Medicaid system. Paying for it required the governor to order a 7.5 percent spending cut by most state agencies – reducing services offered to all Mountain State residents.

Tomblin has said he wants more information on Medicaid expansion, and will not authorize it until and unless he is confident it is the right thing to do for all West Virginians.

This is a situation in which the governor is doing the right thing for our state, even as his political party urges him to cave in. He is absolutely right to adhere to that policy, no matter how much pressure is brought to bear on him.