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And then there were eight

Associated Press

As recently as July, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) was not at all fond of the Medicaid expansion policy in the Affordable Care Act. In a speech at a D.C. think tank, he called the Obama administration's policy "extortion."

That was last year. This year, the governor has found more to like about the policy.

Gov. Chris Christie will expand the state's Medicaid program to cover 300,000 uninsured New Jersey residents, The Star-Ledger learned today. [...]

As for his decision to expand Medicaid, the Republican governor, a critic of President Obama's Affordable Care Act, could reap up to $300 million by expanding the state program in the coming budget year.

For weeks, a coalition of labor, religious, family and consumer groups waged an aggressive letter-writing and media campaign encouraging Christie to expand the Medicaid program. Doing so, they argued, would allow 300,000 uninsured and childless people to apply for Medicaid.

Christie is now the eighth Republican governor to accept Medicaid expansion -- as recently as early December, there were zero -- and as Sarah Kliff noted, "Taken together, these eight states will extend Obamacare's coverage expansion to 3.2 million Americans."

Of course, the politics of this is hard to miss. Indeed, they're likely to be quite consequential.

To reiterate a point from earlier in the month, the way the Affordable Care Act is structured, Medicaid expansion is a great deal for states, and should be a no-brainer for governors who care about lowering health care costs, insuring low-income families, improving state finances, and helping state hospitals.

The result was something of a test for Republican governors: does ideology trump arithmetic? Given Christie's ambitions, it was far from clear which way the governor would go. Fortunately for his constituents, he made the right call.

In the process, however, it's going to be very difficult for him to overcome the "helped expand Obamacare implementation" line on his resume, should he ever find himself in a competitive Republican primary.