Like any other consumer, the state government's objective in seeking health care insurance should be to get the most coverage at the least cost.

But Gov. Tom Corbett seems to have another objective.

The governor has cited costs concerns for his rejection of a the new federal health care law's primary means for increasing coverage - expanding Medicaid.

Actually, the federal proposal is a very good deal for the commonwealth that Mr. Corbett and lawmakers should embrace.

The federal government would cover 100 percent of the state's Medicaid expansion cost through 2016 and 90 percent thereafter.

Medicaid expenses will increase anyway to cover existing parts of the program. So if the administration declines the federal offer, the state's costs will increase but benefits will remain as they are. Meanwhile, through their federal taxes, Pennsylvanians will help pay for increased benefits for residents of other states that expand Medicaid participation.

Now Mr. Corbett wants to use increased Medicaid funding to allow more Pennsylvanians to buy private insurance. In that scenario, cost seems not to be as great a concern. Last summer the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found that the cost per person of expanding Medicaid will be $6,000, compared with $9,000 for comparable private coverage.

Unfortunately, federal and state governments already have a track record of wasting money on such schemes. The Medicare Part D program precludes the government from negotiating drug prices and needlessly funnels billions of dollars to companies that could be used for benefits. Likewise, private insurers offer services through Medicare that Medicare itself could more cheaply provide.

Mr. Corbett should simply choose to expand the Medicaid program to ensure that Pennsylvanians get the best bang for the bucks that they will pay, in any case. Doing so not only will expand coverage but help to stabilize the state's hospitals and other providers.