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Previously stubborn Republican governors are caving on a key provision in Obamacare

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Several Republican governors have embraced a key pillar of President Obama’s health-care law: Extending Medicaid to 17 million Americans.

Many Republicans balked  at the expansion when the Supreme Court made the Medicaid expansion optional in its ruling last summer. Supporters of the law worried that the opposition could undermine the entire health-care overhaul by shrinking the pool of Americans who would gain coverage.

But six Republican governors have since come to back the program, including Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder [above] on Wednesday and Ohio’s John Kasich on Monday. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer announced her support in mid-January.

It’s an extraordinary turnaround that suggests the lure of federal dollars could halt Republican obstruction of the health-care overhaul. Twenty-two states and the District are now on board, and 17 others are deliberating. The remaining 11, all with Republican governors, have said no — but observers believe the recent decisions could change some minds.

“It’s a tipping point,” Bill Pierce, a former Health and Human Services official under George W. Bush, said. “You’ve now got a real conservative state, a battleground state and a blue state all signed up. If you’re a Republican governor thinking about this, you fit into one of those categories.”

Since the court’s decision, hospitals and other health care providers have lobbied governors aggressively to expand Medicaid. The providers had accepted billions in cuts to health care reimbursements because they thought they would gain millions of newly insured patients through Medicaid.

They have teamed up with local chambers of commerce and small businesses to argue that states could net a windfall of federal dollars with little investment of their own.

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