CHARLESTON, W.Va. - U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller appears confident Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin will expand Medicaid in West Virginia, even while the governor's office says it remains undecided.
The expansion is being offered to states as part of President Barack Obama's 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. It would extend Medicaid coverage to about 130,000 low-income state residents, with the federal government picking up the tab for the first few years.
Tomblin seems to be the last Democratic governor in the country to remain undecided about the expansion. His administration is waiting for results of an actuarial study, expected this month, before making that determination.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Rockefeller said Tomblin is only "biding his time" and probably would expand Medicaid in the state.
"I've had a lot of conversations with our governor about it. Obamacare, as it's called in West Virginia, is not much more popular than the president. He carried no counties at all in 2012," Rockefeller said.
"I think the governor is doing what he should be doing . . . He's being very careful; he's talking to all stakeholders."
Rockefeller, who supported the controversial health care legislation, said it's fine that Tomblin is the last Democrat to climb onboard with the expansion.
"That's not considered a disgrace at all. I think he's biding his time," he said. "My guess would be that (Gov.) Earl Ray Tomblin will end up doing it. He will pave the way very carefully and very cautiously smart."
Tomblin was in Washington, D.C., earlier this week for a national governors meeting. U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius met individually with many governors during that time to see how the White House might persuade them to expand Medicaid.