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Government


An odd alliance and the fight to keep Medicaid expansion alive in Ohio
The paltry number of Democrats is the Statehouse is now a hugely important number for Gov. Kasich and his hopes of expanding Medicaid to 275,000 people
by WKSU's STATEHOUSE CORRESPONDENT JO INGLES


Reporter
Jo Ingles
 
Tea Party conservatives have challenged Gov. Kasich's plan to expand Medicaid pretty much since he announced it in February.
Courtesy of OPR file photo
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In The Region:

The decision by the Republican leaders of the Ohio House to strip an expansion of Medicaid from its budget is not setting well with other state officeholders including Ohio’s Republican governor. And as Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles reports, Democrats are poised to fight it.

Hear Ingles on the fight to keep Medicaid expansion plan alive

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Republican Gov. John Kasich wants to expand Medicaid in Ohio. Republican leaders of the Ohio House don’t.

They did put some money in the budget for some items in lieu of the expansion but that doesn’t cut it for Kasich.

"What they’ve done is restore some money to the hospitals," Kasich said. "It’s up to hosptials to tell you how they feel about it, but I don’t think long term, it’s sustaining for them."

House leaership has also put some more money into mental health and addiction services, but Kasich says that doesn't address a big need.

"I do believe we need that billions of dollars in here. It’s good for our economy. It’s good for our rural communities, it’s good for our urban communities, it’s good for veterans, it’s good for the working poor."

No water into wine
Yet Kasich says there are limits to what he, as governor, can do.

"I can’t turn water into wine," Kasich.

So he wants supporters of Medicaid expansion to make their casewith Republican lawmakers.

"That involves this entire community-- the provider community, mental health community," Kasich said. "They just have to say how important it is to them."

Strange allies
One group that’s already speaking out loudly against the House’s decision is a group that often disagrees with Kasich: Democratic lawmakers.
Rep. John Carney is drafting a bill that would include the expansion of Medicaid that Governor Kasich supports -- by a path separate from the two-year state budget.

"Rejecting Medicaid expansion is not fiscally conservative," Carney said. "It’s fiscally irresponsible. Let’s keep in mind here that members of this body are not Congress.  We are members of the state legislature, and it is our job to look out for the 11.5 million citizens here in the state." 

Doing the math
At the moment, Republican House Speaker Bill Batchelder isn’t weighing in for or against bringing the stand-alone Medicaid bill up for a vote.

"We would have to be certain that the votes were actually there," Batchelder said. "We would have to do a head count that was pretty binding, and at this time we have not done that."

The leader of minority Democrats in the Ohio House, Armond Budish, says he welcomes the opportunity to talk to Batchelder about it and that Democrats are all in.

"I would be optimistic about providing 39 votes out of 39 people," Budish said. "I can’t say for sure because I haven’t talked to every person, but nobody has come to me and said they have a problem with expanding Medicaid."

Democrats say they think there are enough Republicans who also favor Medicaid expansion to pass the bill.

A handful of Democrats are taking matters a step further. They are introducing another bill that would create a universal health care plan for Ohio.  It's unlikely that bill would be given serious consideration by the Republican-controlled Legislature.

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