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Government and Politics

Ohio's Medicaid expansion battle pits GOP governor vs. GOP House
And House Democrats say Kasich should have configured the math and politics differently

Jo Ingles
Cassandra Barnham of Cincinnati says Ohioans can't afford to ignore Medicaid.
Courtesy of JO INGLES
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The budget proposed by Ohio House Republicans today does not include the expansion of the Medicaid program proposed by Gov. John Kasich. Kasich says it’s needed to control medical costs. And Democrats, in general, like the idea. But conservative Republicans do not.

Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles reports that the leader of the Ohio House is not saying Medicaid expansion is dead – yet.

No expansion for Medicaid in House GOP plan

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INGLES: Abbreviated Medicaid expansion story

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Gov. Kasich’s two-year budget would expand Medicaid to some 275,000 low-income Ohioans. He says it also would control costs while ensuring federal reimbursements for hospitals. But Ohio House proposal for the same budget does not contain that Medicaid expansion.  Republican House Speaker Bill Batchelder says why.

“The House Republican caucus does not have clear enough vision of what is happening in Washington.  If anyone here has a clear vision of what is happening in Washington, I’ll be in the hall.”

Until then, Batchelder says, “we cannot have a position on that.”

Batchelder says he and other Republican leaders are unclear on what federal regulations the state might have to bear in the future, and how much the state could end up paying.

Protesters say Medicaid would make a world of difference
Meanwhile about two dozen people rallied on Capitol Square, urging lawmakers to expand the Medicaid program.

Cassandra Barham is a breast cancer survivor from Cincinnati who hs no health care. She says she brings home less than $500 every two weeks and cannot get health care that she can afford.

“When I had health insurance, it was fine. When I got breast cancer, I was lucky enough to still have health care. But since I have a pre-existing condition, … I can’t get health care and this (Medicaid expansion) would have definitely helped me.”

Democrats tell Kasich to do the math
Ohio Democratic Party Chair Chris Redfern there’s just one person to blame if Ohio lawmakers fail to expand Medicaid.

“It points out the inherent leadership style of John Kasich.”

Redfern says Democratic members of the Ohio House support the Medicaid expansion, and if Kasich agreed to make it a stand-alone bill – instead of part of the state budget – it could pass without a lot of GOP support.

“Had he … offered opportunities for the 39 Democrats in the House and the 10 Democrats in the Senate to come together and then went off and found the six or seven (Republican) votes he needed in the Senate and the 11 votes he needed in the House, we could have passed this with bipartisan support.”

Reap what you sow
Redfern says Kasich has not worked to garner support for the expansion.  Instead, Redfern says, Kasich has spent the better part of two years trying to poison it.

“Two years throwing political bombs, attacking the president’s Medicaid-expansion program and now he wonders why it failed.  It failed because John Kasich didn’t show the leadership necessary to get it passed.”

Gov. Kasich has issued a statement saying it’s clear the support isn’t there right now among House Republicans, but it’s the right thing for Ohio.

“Not doing so will hurt our economy, make Obamacare’s impacts worse, and hurt vulnerable Ohioans who need care,” he said.

The governor and advocates for Medicaid plan to continue to pressure GOP House members. And the Ohio Senate has yet to weigh in.  


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