$65B Ohio budget adopted; Medicaid showdown looms


Associated Press

COLUMBUS

Ohio’s Republican-controlled Legislature approved a new two-year state budget Wednesday that includes a freeze on Medicaid expansion enrollment next year, setting up a potential showdown with the governor.

Budget votes in both chambers were largely along party lines, 24-8 in the Senate and 59-38 in the House. Kasich will sign it Friday, but not before issuing what is expected to be dozens of line-item vetoes.

Republican Gov. John Kasich, a vocal backer of expanding Medicaid, could opt to veto the freeze on new Medicaid enrollment. It would then be up to GOP leaders in the Legislature to see if they have the votes to override the veto.

Kasich’s administration has said that freezing Medicaid enrollment could mean as many as 500,000 low-income adults will lose health insurance coverage. He has until Friday to sign off on the $65 billion spending plan.

The budget legislation provides that after July 1, 2018, no new enrollees would be accepted to the Medicaid program covering some 700,000 poor adults – and those who dropped off the program by finding better employment could not re-enroll.

Those needing medical help for mental-health problems or drug use also could not be added to the Medicaid program after the beginning of July next year. Another change adds work requirements for people receiving Medicaid through the expansion.

Republicans lawmakers say the Medicaid enrollment freeze helps limit costs and continues to provide health insurance for low-income people. Democrats oppose the measure and say it will hurt too many people.

The budget bill also includes a provision allowing the state to transfer ownership of the Youngstown Developmental Center in Austintown to the Mahoning County Board of Mental Health and Recovery, according to 21 WFMJ-TV, The Vindicator’s broadcast partner. The board has plans to use the facility for more independent-type living for people in later levels of recovery, adults with developmental disabilities, adults with autism, the elderly who receive mental- health services and veterans.

It also could serve as a center for social service agencies to locate.

Other provisions in the budget include:

High school graduation requirements starting in 2018 to allow attendance, grade-point average and work options to be considered in obtaining a diploma instead of relying on new end-of-course scores.

A process for charter- school sponsors to appeal their state ratings through an informal hearing.

A prohibition on universities increasing in-state undergraduate instructional and general fees over the next two years while also allowing universities that use the tuition guarantee program to increase tuition by 8 percent.

Allowing businesses to file municipal income taxes through the state, which would keep 1 percent of revenues before sending the money back to municipalities.

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