Inslee: It's time to embrace Medicaid expansion

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said Wednesday it's time to move ahead with expanding Medicaid coverage in the state, arguing that the effort is a good financial deal for taxpayers.

Some Republicans have expressed concern that the federal government may eventually lower its commitment to the Medicaid expansion laid out under President Barack Obama's health care law, leaving states paying the bill for providing medical coverage for more low-income people. Inslee said he didn't believe Congress would make any major changes in the program during the coming years but added the state has a way out if things do go awry.

"The state of Washington will be free to leave the program without any penalty," Inslee said.

House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt said his caucus was not opposed to the expansion.

"We want to make sure that, if we do this, that we make sure it's anchored in that if the feds back out of the program that we're not on the hook for this, and that we can put some safeguards on it," DeBolt said.

House Majority Leader Rodney Tom, a Democrat who is leading a Republican-dominated coalition in that chamber, said the state can't get stuck into a program it can't afford.

"If we're going to go that direction we need to do it in a measured way so that it does not create an entitlement," Tom said.

The federal government will pay 100 percent of the cost of the Medicaid expansion to start, dropping to 90 percent in future years.