SACRAMENTO -- Gov. Jerry Brown said implementation of the new federal healthcare law is at the top of his agenda as he meets with other governors in the nation's capital this weekend.
In particular, Brown hopes to coordinate with other state leaders about how to expand coverage to the poor under the federal Medicaid program.
Speaking to reporters at the National Governors Assn. winter meetings in Washington on Saturday, Brown said he wants to "build support among the governors for an appropriate state rule in the Medicaid expansion." With billions of dollars at stake, he said it was "absolutely critical that states have the authority they need to manage this very complex and expensive program."
An increasing number of governors, including Republicans, are opting to grow their state's Medicaid program, lured by the federal government's promise to pick up 100% of the costs for most new recipients over the next three years. That share is scheduled to taper off to 90% over the next decade.
But many governors, including Arizona's Jan Brewer, a Republican, and Brown, have said they want to build in an escape hatch to their state program that rolls back the benefits if the federal dollars fall short.
"The federal government has a tendency to send out broad mandates and limit the state's authority and then we have to come hat in hand and say, 'Please let us manage this thing that you have thrust on us," Brown said. "When costs grow, we have to be able to curb them with a broad authority unconstrained from in the way the federal government likes to constrain states."
Brown will join other governors in a meeting with President Obama at the White House on Monday. He is expected to return to California on Tuesday.
--Anthony York in Sacramento and Rich Simon in Washington
Federal cuts could cost California billions
Arizona's governor bucks expectations again
Brown may forge alliance with GOP governors on health plan