Lawsuit filed challenging Ohio Medicaid expansion
By Marc Kovac
Six Republican lawmakers and two anti-abortion groups filed suit against Gov. John Kasich’s administration late Tuesday for moving an expansion of Medicaid eligibility without a full vote of the state Legislature.
The plaintiffs, including Reps. Andy Thompson, R-Marietta, and Matt Lynch, R-Chagrin Falls, and Right-to-Life groups in Cleveland and Cincinnati, want the Ohio Supreme Court to reverse a decision by the state Controlling Board that accommodated the expansion.
They say the board overstepped its authority with a decision that runs contrary to the intent of the General Assembly.
Kasich is not named in the suit, but defendants named are his Medicaid department and the board, which is headed by his appointed president.
Rob Nichols, the governor’s spokesman, said the administration does not comment on pending litigation.
The suit was filed by the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, via attorney Maurice Thompson, a day after the board gave state Medicaid officials authority to spend $2.5 billion in federal funding for health care for Ohioans earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.
Kasich and advocacy groups have been pushing for an expansion of Medicaid eligibility for months, saying it was needed to provide health care to more than 275,000 additional needy Ohioans, including working adults who don’t earn enough to pay for health insurance.
But opponents view the expansion as an endorsement of President Barack Obama’s signature health care law and out-of-control federal spending and debt.
Kasich moved ahead with the expansion, citing language in the biennial budget bill allowing it. The federal government signed off on the expansion request earlier this month, and the administration opted to place the issue before the controlling board rather than pushing it before the full House and Senate.
The seven-member panel gave its OK on Monday on a 5-2 vote, prompting the lawsuit and criticism from conservative lawmakers and groups.
“The Ohio Constitution forbids the delegation of such major policy-making authority to a small administrative board of legislators and executive branch officials where those policy outcomes diverge from the expressed intent of the Ohio General Assembly,” the plaintiffs wrote. “Accordingly, the state of Ohio Controlling Board’s administrative expansion of Medicaid spending fails statutory and constitutional scrutiny.”