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Ohio Senate president: Medicaid reform has priority regardless of expansion
Kasich's push for expansion moves ahead Monday, without a sign-off from lawmakers

Web Editor
M.L. Schultze
Ohio Sen. President Keith Faber vows lawmakers will take on Medicaid reform to control costs.
Courtesy of Ohio Senate
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The expansion of Medicaid to nearly 300,000 working poor people in Ohio rests with Gov. John Kasich’s ability to do political math and to count to four. WKSU’s M.L. Schultze has more on the way things are shaping up for a Controlling Board vote on Monday.

LISTEN: Faber on expansion and reform

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When it became clear Ohio’s GOP-dominated Statehouse had no intention of expanding Medicaid, Gov. Kasich announced he’ll go to the Controlling Board instead. The obscure board that generally oversees mundane allocations within the state budget suddenly was front-page news. And it will remain that way through a vote by its seven members.

In an interview with Statehouse reporters captured by the Dix Capital Bureau, Ohio Senate President Keith Faber noted that – technically – the Controlling Board is not expanding Medicaid coverage. Rather, the board will be deciding how to allot the money the feds have essentially already put into one of Ohio’s bank accounts – to expand Medicaid.

“If we don’t move the money from the federal funds account and authorize it go over to the Medicaid account, Medicaid goes bankrupt. That money for the expansion the governor has the authority to do would be spent down, and current Medicaid recipients, kids and moms and people currently covered under the Medicaid program -- would not have services. I don’t think that’s necessarily a good result.”

Money is on Widener, nor a replacement
Neither does Gov. Kasich. He has the votes of the chairman of the Controlling Board, his budget adviser, Randy Cole. And he can count on the votes of the two Democrats on the board, Akron state Sen. Tom Sawyer and Port Clinton state Rep. Chris Redfern. So the question is, which of the board’s three Republicans might be persuaded to go along? Most the money is on Springfield Republican state Sen. Chris Widener.

He, and the others, serve at the pleasure of Faber and House Speaker William Batchelder, and could be replaced. Faber says he’s told the governor not to count on that.

“I generally trust my members when we appoint them to committees to do what’s in Ohio’s interests and to do what’s in the interests of their districts as good representatives. And I don’t intend to swap people out on Controlling Board to get any particular result.”

The expansion the governor is backing would extend Medicaid coverage to people making up to 138 percent of the poverty level. Kasich has championed it since he released his proposed two-year budget six months ago, and Faber is clear that this is the governor’s responsibility.

“The governor is doing Medicaid expansion. He does it by executive order. …Remember, we had a provision in the budget that said ‘Not so fast’;  He exercised his constitutional authority to veto it. (So) we have to manage under the circumstance as it exists. And I don’t think it would be management to sit back and say, ‘Look, we’re just going to ignore the problem.”

So Faber says controlling costs and other Medicaid reforms are a top priority for state lawmakers – whether or not Medicaid is expanded.

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