Medicaid

Feds, States Play Stare-Down Over Medicaid Expansion

It's a game with a high price tag

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It's health care brinksmanship, with hundreds of billions of dollars and the well-being of millions of people at stake.

President Barack Obama's health care law expands Medicaid, the federal-state health program for low-income people, but cost-wary states must decide whether to take the deal.

Turn it down, and governors risk coming off as callous toward their neediest residents. Not to mention the likely second-guessing for walking away from a pot of federal dollars estimated at nearly $1 trillion nationally over a decade.

If the Obama administration were to compromise, say by sweetening the offer to woo a reluctant state, it would face immediate demands from 49 others for similar deals that could run up the tab by tens of billions of dollars.