By Sen. JOE SCHIAVONI AND KIRK NODEN
We have a choice to make. Our state can choose to bring in $17.3 billion from the federal government and cut the number of uninsured Ohioans in half. Or we can turn down the fed’s offer, leaving that money on the table and 450,000 Ohioans without health insurance.
This doesn’t seem like much of a choice, does it?
Ohio must take advantage of this unprecedented opportunity given to us by the Affordable Care Act to expand Medicaid.
In the first year alone, federal funds brought in by the Medicaid expansion could pay the annual wages of 50,000 health care workers. And if we choose not to expand the program, the tax money we’ve already paid into the federal government will be used to expand health care access in other states, with no benefit to Ohioans.
Medicaid is a smart investment. It provides healthcare to millions of children and gives the disabled opportunities to live independently by paying for home health care nurses and attendant. It also gives seniors more choices that allow them to live at home longer. Ohio will soon be the new Florida. By 2020, 35 of Ohio’s 88 counties will have populations that are more than a quarter elderly. We have to take care of our graying residents.
Federal Medicaid funds would allow many of us to have insurance instead of going to the emergency room every time we get sick, leaving the rest to foot the bill. Instead of more political infighting, we should focus on making healthcare affordable for all.
The middle class is being crushed by the economy in this country and health care costs are part of the problem. Working class families need an opportunity to get affordable coverage, preventive services, and economic security against accidents, illness or job loss. Making Medicaid available to more Ohioans would provide health care for working families who currently can’t afford it and would expand economic security to millions in these tough economic times.
A healthier population is more productive, makes families more secure and leads to a stronger and more vital economy.
And that’s the big question: how do we grow our economy in a way that will promote long-term growth and economic prosperity for all Ohioans?
In November, Ohioans voted clearly to strengthen the middle class by putting people back to work and creating opportunity for the least among us. They voted for leaders who will put the good of the country before personal politics, and for a brighter future for all families.
In short, voters in Ohio and across the country endorsed what many are calling “Prosperity Economics,” a vision and blueprint developed by Professor Jacob Hacker and Nate Lowentheil of Yale University to create an economy that works for everyone.
Simply put, it’s a plan to reinvest in our middle class. We cannot continue on our current path in which the gap between the wealthiest and everyone else is growing at an unconscionable rate. If we don’t do something dramatic to change our economic policies, our country — a country that was built on the belief that everyone has an opportunity to become successful — will continue to sputter and fail for everyone except our nation’s wealthiest.
Ohio deserves prosperity and expanding Medicaid coverage is a step in that direction. Truly, it’s time to grow — not slow — the economy. And the best way to do this is to make the investments needed to put people to work and relieve the burdens on working-class families.
State Sen. Joe Schiavoni, a Democrat representing the 33rd District, is assistant minority whip in the Ohio Senate. Kirk Noden is executive director of the Ohio Organizing Collaborative.