Kasich signs budget, but vetoes freeze on Medicaid
By David Skolnick
Gov. John Kasich has once again stood against fellow Republicans in the Ohio Legislature to support a Medicaid expansion that now provides health insurance to 700,000 low-income Ohioans.
The 2016 presidential contender vetoed a proposed freeze from Ohio’s state budget before signing it late Friday in Columbus.
With Kasich’s veto, the GOP-controlled House and Senate must decide whether to override his decision.
Democratic state legislators in the Mahoning Valley aren’t in agreement on whether there are enough GOP votes for an override.
The Ohio House scheduled a July 6 session for a tentative override. The Senate hasn’t set a date to return but is expected to meet during the week of July 10.
A three-fifths vote in the House and Senate are needed to overturn the veto of Kasich, also a Republican.
That’s 60 votes in the House, where there are 66 Republican members, and 20 votes in the Senate, where there are 24 Republicans.
“I don’t know if the Republican caucus will override the governor’s veto,” said state Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Boardman, D-33rd.
State Rep. John Boccieri of Poland, D-58th, said: “I don’t sense the Republicans have the votes right now. I think some of the moderate Republicans will be inclined to not override his veto. It’s strange to say, but John Kasich is now considered a moderate in the Republican Party because the party has moved too far to the right.”
State Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan of Youngstown, D-59th, said House Republicans wouldn’t call a session if leadership didn’t believe it had the votes to overturn Kasich’s veto.
State Sen. Sean O’Brien of Bazetta, D-32nd, expects the House vote to be very close, but says it shouldn’t be an issue to override Kasich’s veto in the Senate.
The $65 billion, two-year budget bill approved by the Legislature calls for Kasich to seek a federal waiver allowing Ohio to suspend new enrollees eligible under the Medicaid expansion as of July 1, 2018.
That expansion now covers about 700,000 low-income Ohioans. The Ohio Department of Medicaid says that includes 42,388 people in the Mahoning Valley: 20,292 in Mahoning County, 15,426 in Trumbull County and 6,670 in Columbiana County.
Kasich’s office estimates about 500,000 Ohioans would lose coverage within the first 18 months of the freeze.
Medicaid is a government health insurance program available to low-income adults, children, pregnant women, the elderly and people with disabilities. The program is administered by states according to federal requirements.
“Freezing Medicaid expansion would devastate the working poor,” O’Brien said. “We’ve seen how many people have benefited from it. It’s cruel to do this to people, particularly when we’ve given tax breaks to the wealthiest Ohioans, which created a $1 billion hole in the state budget.”
“People dependent on Medicaid will be kicked off,” Lepore-Hagan said. “Those with pre-existing conditions will suffer, and some people will die.”
Schiavoni said: “It’s very frustrating that we aren’t looking at a long-term solution. We need a long-term game plan. Medicaid expansion has done a good job and provided benefits to a lot of working Ohioans. It gives the working poor the ability to have a primary doctor, a dentist, to go to physical therapy after an injury. If we get rid of it, it will force people to get medical treatment only in emergency situations.”