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Health and Medicine

Thousands of Ohioans get health insurance for the first time
Medicaid expansion is launched

Courtesy of State of Ohio Medicaid website
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For thousands of Ohioans, this is the first time they'll have access to health insurance through Medicaid. The federally funded coverage has largely been off-limits for adults without children -- no matter how little income they make. For Ohio Public Radio, WCPN’s Sarah Jane Tribble explains that has changed.

LISTEN: Medicaid expansion plays out in Ohio

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Just before Christmas, 44-year-old Patrick Butas of Cleveland went to St. Vincent Charity Hospital. Despite having a nasty fever that was causing sweat to form on his brow, he signed up for Medicaid.

“For years and years, I made $30-$40,000 a year and then I lost my job and I have to resort to this.”

Butas was part of an end-of-the-year rush in Ohio to sign up for Medicaid. The state says more than 17,000 people have filled out applications on its Web site -- -- since Dec. 9th.

Networking and woodworking
Sam Rossi, of the Ohio Department of Medicaid, says there are two main drivers for that enrollment.

“One is the newly eligible Ohioans who qualify for Medicaid benefits through extending Medicaid. Then there is also what is known as the woodwork effect, which are individuals who have already qualified for Medicaid but for some reason were never on the rolls.”

The Affordable Care Act requires most individuals to have health insurance. The deadline to sign up is the end of March, with coverage retroactive to Jan. 1.

Many people, like Butas, are signing up with help from a navigator. On the day before Christmas, Butas worked with Navigator Rachel DeGolia on the Medicaid application.

“Do you have $100 or more in cash, checking, or savings?”
“Are your monthly rent and utility payments more than your monthly income?”

For Butas, getting help with insurance matters because every dollar counts.

Ohio expects an additional half a million people will enroll in expanded Medicaid by the middle of 2015.

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