Gov. John Kasich can be obstinate to a fault, as evidenced by his refusal to treat JobsOhio, the state’s chief economic development entity, like any other public agency governed by Ohio’s public records and open meetings laws. We have taken Kasich to task for not recognizing that the lack of transparency feeds the public cynicism about government.
That said, we now applaud the Republican governor for his obstinate stand in favor of expanding Medicaid eligibility as part of Democratic President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. The expansion would be 100 percent federally funded for the first three years and bring in an estimated $13 billion in federal money over seven years, according to the Columbus Dispatch.
On Monday, the Kasich administration will seek the approval of the State áontrolling Board to spend $2.56 billion in federal money to cover about 275,000 low-income Ohioans who would normally not be eligible for health-care coverage under Medicaid. Ohio got permission from the Obama administration to amend the Medicaid program so people making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level ($32,499 for a household of four) could be covered.
The Republican-controlled General Assembly refused to go along with the expansion and included a prohibition in the biennium budget. The governor, who had placed the expansion in the budget he submitted to the General Assembly, vetoed the line item pertaining to the prohibition.
The GOP leadership in the House and Senate have ignored his numerous appeals to bring the Medicaid expansion issue up for a vote.
Faced with the January deadline, the administration decided to go directly to the State Controlling Board, which has the statutory authority to approve requests to spend federal money.
The board is made up of three members from each chamber of the Legislature. With the GOP in the majority, there are three Republicans and two Democrats. The head of the board is Randy Cole, a Kasich appointee, who has a vote.
Given that the two Democrats and Cole can be expected to support the governor’s expansion push, the vote from one of the Republicans will be needed.
Despite a letter that was circulated this week by House Republicans protesting Kasich’s decision to go directly to the Controlling Board, the executive branch is well within its legal authority to seek and implement changes to the state’s Medicaid program if the federal government approves.
The bottom line is that Washington is picking up 100 percent of the tab for the first three years and could well cover 90 percent of the annual cost after that.
Republicans’ opposition to Obamacare is not reason enough to deprive more than 200,000 Ohioans of health care.
As state Sen. Capri Cafaro of Liberty, D-32nd, put it, “Expanding Medicaid will be a win-win for Ohio by providing health-care coverage to more Ohioans while lowering costs over the next decade,”
Greg Moody, director of the Governor’s Office of Health Transformation, noted that the expansion of Medicaid has been “a priority for quite a while.”
The GOP-controlled General Assembly had every opportunity to join the governor in doing the right thing for the people of Ohio, but it chose, instead, to play partisan politics.
Kasich is to be commended for standing firm. This is one time his being obstinate is a good thing.