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Government and Politics

Ohio Senate subcommittee discusses medicaid reform
Groups discuss pros and cons of reform and expansion

Jo Ingles
Ohio State Sen. Dave Burke says Medicaid should grow at the rate of inflation and no more.
Courtesy of Ohio Statehouse
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State leaders continue to debate what, if anything, to do with Medicaid in light of the implementation of the new federal health care law. A senate subcommittee looking at how to reform, but not necessarily expand, Medicaid is looking at its options.


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Governor Kasich has called for expansion of the Medicaid program in order to deal with changes brought about by the federal affordable health care act but majority Republicans in the Ohio House and Senate are not buying that idea.

Why cover more?
State Senator Dave Burke’s proposal calls for Medicaid reform but not Medicaid expansion. Burke says a new study of Ohio’s Medicaid system by the Health Policy Institute of Ohio supports his bill on reforming Medicaid to curbing the costs. He says the study shows the proposed three to four percent limit on growth of Medicaid costs would be a good way to make health care more affordable

"I think it’s reasonable that the rate of growth for expenditures would be the inflationary growth," Burke says. "Why would I pay more? Do you pay more than the price at the gas pump? So why would we pay more than the rate of growth for the costs of the services we’d be paying for. I think that’s a reasonable goal."

But Bill Hayes, the President of the non-partisan group that analyzed the Medicaid options, says the study shows something else.

"If you can maintain the growth of spending per person now than it had happened historically, that gives you the financial space if you wish to expand Medicaid and still not cost the taxpayers any more money," Hayes says.

Possibly, to pay less
Hayes says his study shows the state could expand Medicaid. He also says his study shows that providing coverage to more people could help.

"Not everyone who is uninsured qualifies for Medicaid," Hayes says. "Just being poor doesn’t qualify you for Medicaid. So if you don’t have a child, it requires you to become sick enough. And that means the state is allowing someone’s health to degrade until they got onto Medicaid. With expansion, with that coverage, then ideally, they would not have to see their health decline, catch something earlier, fix it, stay healthier, remain productive, be able to maintain their job and not have to become as expensive as they might have otherwise been."

Democratic State Senator Capri Cafaro says the findings of this analysis prove what she has been saying all along. Cafaro has proposedOhio State Sen. Capri cafaro says medicaid expansion has benefits. legislation that would both reform Medicaid but also add low income Ohioans onto the system.

"So what the Health Policy Institute of Ohio along with their colleagues at the Ohio State University basically laid out all of the substantive data and modeling that supports that basic premise in my bill – that it is possible to cover more people with less money and being able to do it in an effective way without kicking people off the system and improving outcomes and reducing costs," Cafaro says.

Cafaro says there is nothing left for the subcommittee to do at this point because that body can not vote ormake policy changes, which she says is needed at this point. Cafaro wants the Senate President to call the Senate Finance Committee together so it can deal with the issue. 

But that is not happening right now. The senate Medicaid subcommittee is set to go to Cleveland next week to see how a mini Medicaid expansion project works.

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