Ohio House defies Kasich and logic in blocking new Medicaid

The move by Ohio House Repub- licans to thwart Gov. John Kasich’s proposed expansion of Medicaid to nearly 300,000 Ohioans is a prime example of a political ideology trumping common sense and human compassion.

It’s as if House Republicans are more interested in rejecting a provision of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act than they are providing an opportunity for working Ohio families to get medical coverage and for Ohio medical providers to get paid for the services they are already providing for people in need. Why expand Medicaid to people in need when, to paraphrase Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, anyone in America can go to the emergency room for treatment?

And when people can’t pay the emergency room bill, what happens? Hospitals pass along their losses to those who can, which primarily means to people who have health insurance and to the companies that provide insurance for their employees.

The state has the opportunity to expand Medicaid coverage to families with incomes up to 138 percent of federal poverty level (about $15,400 per person or $23,050 for a family of four). That would extend Medicaid to 275,000 men, women and children, and it would bring hundreds of millions of federal dollars each year into Ohio.

Who benefits?

House lawmakers argue that such federal funding will come, eventually, at a price, with the state required to pay 10 percent of the cost in the fiscal 2014-15 budget. But the boost that the state’s economy would get from the influx of federal money and other factors would offset those costs. Not to mention that the partnership between the state and federal governments would be providing health coverage to people who are too often overlooked, the working poor.

Gov. Kasich says he will continue to press for extending Medicaid coverage. It shouldn’t be a difficult argument to win, because Kasich has the numbers on his side. While Kasich’s budget gives Ohio an opportunity to tap federal assets, the House proposal calls for the state to unilaterally spend $242 million on expanded mental health and addiction services for uninsured Ohioans. The House, in effect, proposes to spend hundreds of millions of state dollars to avoid expanding Medicaid coverage — while claiming that the state can’t afford to participate in the expanded federal program.

Gov. Kasich famously said a few days after his election in 2010 that those who hadn’t supported him should climb aboard because, “If you’re not on the bus, we’ll run over you with the bus.”

We suspect he has come to regret such hubris now, when Republicans in the General Assembly seem intent on proving who is boss (even if it means hard working Ohioans — people without health coverage and the hospitals, nursing homes, doctors and nurses who treat them — are the ones who are hurt).

Over seven years, Ohio could receive as much as $13 billion from the federal government to cover newly eligible Medicaid recipients. Keeping that much money out of the state’s health-care pipeline is bad public policy and a disservice to every Ohioan.

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