By Frank Lewis
October 22, 2013
PDT Staff Writer
Ohio Governor John Kasich’s nine-month battle with the conservative wing of the Ohio Republican Party has ended, and as a result, around 300,000 more low-income people will receive Medicaid.
Kasich has always had the full support of the Republican legislature, but that came to a screeching halt last year when Kasich said he supported the expansion of Medicaid in the state. As a result of his support for expansion, the GOP-controlled Legislature balked, so he turned to the little-known Controlling Board. The move to bypass the full Legislature has been criticized.
“Governor Kasich has pledged to expand Medicaid under the Obamacare statute, which lures states into the program with promises of federal assistance. Despite that federal spending, the expansion will still cost states at least $12 billion a year once the program is fully implemented, and billions more over the long-term,” Americans for Limited Government President Bill Wilson said. “Ohio’s expansion alone will cost federal taxpayers $17 billion from 2014-2019, according to a Kaiser estimate. Except there is not enough revenue to pay for Medicaid expansion. So it will have to be borrowed. Thanks to Governor Kasich, the American people will be paying interest on Ohio’s Medicaid expansion for posterity.”
More opposition has come out of another conservative organization.
“It is disappointing to see Governor Kasich maneuver around the General Assembly – which represents the interests of all Ohioans – in an effort to expand a broken Medicaid system. The lure of ‘free’ federal dollars should be seen for the trap that it is; Medicaid expansion will create a massive financial burden in our state,” Americans for Prosperity -Ohio State Director Eli Miller, said. “More importantly, Medicaid itself is a broken system that delivers sub-standard health care outcomes. True concern for Ohio’s most vulnerable does not mean burdening them with a federal program that fewer and fewer doctors will even accept.”
The Controlling Board gave the governor what he wanted by a 5 to 2, but it is only a temporary answer to a question that has been sometimes dominating politics in Ohio and other states for more than a year.
One of the early supporters of the Medicaid expansion was Ed Hughes, CEO of Compass Community Health in Portsmouth. Hughes reacted immediately to the news that Medicaid will reach more people in Ohio.
“A momentous opportunity for our community,” Hughes called it. “We would never be able to significantly improve our county’s health without Medicaid expansion. Governor Kasich’s concern for our poor should serve as inspiration for us to work even harder as a community to provide quality, affordable health care which includes treatment for addiction and mental illness.”
Hughes said expanded Medicaid has an additional plus for this area.
“Because of all of these services, hospitals, doctors, primary care, emergency services, drug and alcohol treatment, we will all have to expand to meet this need, and that means Ohio jobs,” Hughes said.
The Daily Times reached Southern Ohio Medical Center and received the following statement:
“If the Medicaid expansion is to take affect, it will provide increased eligibility, and a reliable source of payment, for those seeking access to medical care. There would be clear advantages for qualifying patients, though Southern Ohio Medical Center accepts all patients regardless of their ability to pay.”
The decision does not spell out whether Ohio will provide money to keep Medicaid more generous in future years, when the state would need to chip in a small portion of the expense. And even before the board acted, some conservative Republican lawmakers were threatening to go to court, alleging the governor illegally bypassed the legislature.
Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that each state has the freedom to expand Medicaid or not.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at email@example.com. For breaking news, follow Frank on Twitter @FrankLewisPDT.