The Ohio Democratic Party is circulating a video clip of Chairman David Pepper and others discussing the expansion of the state’s Medicaid program – with Republican Gov. John R. Kasich in a cameo role.
In the clip, Pepper, standing in front of the Ohio Statehouse, sees Kasich walking by and says aloud, “Hey governor, we’re here talking about your Medicaid expansion. We’re all for it.”
Kasich, who is term-limited, glances in Pepper’s direction and replies, “Thank you. Keep fighting for it.”
The significance of that exchange cannot be overstated.
The race for governor and other statewide offices is just over three months away, and Democrats believe they have a winning issue with health care, in general, and Medicaid, in particular.
The fact that Kasich pushed through the expansion of Medicaid despite the objection of Republicans in the General Assembly put him at odds with Attorney General Mike DeWine, the GOP nominee for governor.
It’s noteworthy that Kasich’s words of encouragement for Pepper and the Democratic Party came 11 days after DeWine did a major flip-flop with the Medicaid expansion issue.
During the hotly contested Republican primary for governor, DeWine let it be known that Kasich’s expansion was financially unsustainable. He went so far as to say that the current program would not exist if he were elected governor.
DeWine talked about the need to continue treatment for drug addiction and mental illness and said he would seek waivers from the federal government to overhaul the program.
He has now retreated from that tough talk, saying he supports the expansion. Even so, DeWine said he would push for work requirements for able-bodied recipients.
But here’s the reality of Kasich’s expansion of Medicaid: A number of the additional 700,000 Ohioans now getting health-care coverage come from the ranks of the working poor. In other words, there are Ohioans who work, do not receive health insurance from their employers and cannot afford to pay for private insurance.
That’s why Democrats, led by the party’s nominee for governor, Richard Cordray, have been unyielding in their support of Republican Kasich’s Medicaid program.
The gathering of Democrats in front of the Statehouse was designed to keep the spotlight on this important issue.
There can be no parsing of words when it comes to providing Ohioans with readily available, high-quality, affordable health care.
Thus, when DeWine’s lieutenant governor running mate Jon Husted says the ticket will support the requirement that Affordable Care Act insurance policies retain coverage for pre-existing condition, the question must be asked: Why then won’t the attorney general join the governor in opposing changes to national health-care policy for individuals with pre-existing conditions?
Twenty Republican state attorneys general have filed a lawsuit to eliminate the pre-existing conditions portion of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”).
The U.S. Justice Department has filed a brief in the case saying it would no longer defend the pre-existing condition provision of the ACA.
DeWine should follow Kasich’s lead and throw political caution to the wind. Challenging the administration of Republican President Donald J. Trump would put him on a collision course with members of his party, but there can be no compromising when the health of Ohioans is at stake.
Here’s what Kasich and other Republican and Democratic governors said in a statement opposing the changes proposed by the White House:
“The [Trump] administration’s disappointing decision to no longer defend this provision of federal law threatens health-care coverage for many in our state with pre-existing conditions and adds uncertainty and higher costs for Americans who purchase their own health insurance.”
Affordable health care is a major issue in this year’s election not only in Ohio, but also around the country.
The continuing attacks on the Affordable Care Act by Trump, Republican members of Congress, Republican governors and legislators have given the Democratic Party an issue that sets it apart from the GOP.
In Ohio, Cordray and his lieutenant governor running mate Betty Sutton have unveiled their health-care plan that’s designed to reduce costs while providing reliable coverage.
With Republican Kasich urging Democrats to keep fighting for Medicaid expansion, we await the details of De-Wine’s health-care proposal for working Ohioans who have no safety net.