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Ohio GOP Governor Backs Federal Medicaid Expansion

By: Associated Press Email
By: Associated Press Email

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Ohio's Republican governor announced Monday he will push for expanding Medicaid under the federal health care law, a move that would give many more poor people access to government care.

It also sets up a potential fight among the governor and Republicans who control the state Legislature and are strongly against President Barack Obama's health care law.

The state anticipates more than 365,000 Ohioans will be eligible for coverage beginning in 2014 by expanding Medicaid, the health program for the poor that already provides care for one of every five residents in the state.

A broad group of Ohio's doctors, hospitals and health providers back the idea.

Gov. John Kasich, who last summer called the federal health overhaul a "massive new tax on the middle class," proposed the Medicaid expansion in his two-year budget plan released Monday. He now must persuade Republican state lawmakers to back the plan despite the fact that many dislike the law's mandated coverage and campaigned against it just a few months ago.

Kasich reiterated his opposition to what he called "Obamacare," saying "I don't believe in the individual mandate."

"But I think that this makes great sense for the state of Ohio," he said.

If Ohio doesn't extend Medicaid, his administration said, federal tax dollars will be used to expand health coverage in other states and give businesses elsewhere a competitive advantage by creating a healthier workforce.

The leader of the Ohio House has said his fellow Republicans have concerns about the expense of expanding Medicaid. House Speaker William Batchelder told reporters the idea also poses philosophical questions for lawmakers who oppose the law's mandate that almost everyone obtain health insurance.

Kasich said he views the Medicaid expansion decision separately from the health care overhaul law's mandate.

The federal government will pay the entire cost of the Medicaid expansion for the first three years, gradually phasing down to 90 percent of the cost after that. Even at those generous rates, however, some GOP governors and state legislatures say they fear being stuck with long-term costs.

Ohio will see an influx of $2.4 billion in federal funds over the next two years beginning in July to cover those who are newly eligible, the administration said.

Separate changes to eligibility for Medicaid will mean that almost 91,000 who are covered by Medicaid will be dropped from the program.

The state also expects to net $235 million because of a boost in tax revenue, plus additional savings from proposed Medicaid eligibility changes and savings on medical care for prisoners.

Kasich proposal also calls for an automatic "opt-out" trigger. Under his plan, if the federal government doesn't pick up its share of expanded coverage, the program for newly eligible would shut down and Ohio taxpayers wouldn't be stuck with the bill.

Kasich's decision is significant not only because Ohio is a political bellwether, but also because of his previous service is Congress, where as chairman of the House Budget Committee in the late 1990s he helped pass major legislation to reduce federal debt.

That gives his decision Monday added weight, and could undercut arguments from some conservatives that Washington cannot be trusted to honor its financial commitments for the latest Medicaid expansion.

Ohio was among 26 states that sued to overturn the federal law. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the heart of the overhaul last year but allowed states to decide whether to expand Medicaid.

Kasich joined Arizona Republican Gov. Jan Brewer in calling for expansion. Several other GOP governors have said they will not go forward, including Rick Perry in Texas, Bobby Jindal in Louisiana and Nikki Haley in South Carolina.

The Medicaid expansion is intended to cover about half of the 30 million uninsured people expected to eventually gain coverage under the health care overhaul. The law expanded Medicaid to cover low-income people making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $15,400 a year for an individual. That provision will mainly benefit low-income adults who do not have children and currently can't get Medicaid in most states. Separately, the overhaul provides subsidized private insurance for middle-class households.

Washington, D.C., and 17 states have opted to expand their Medicaid rolls.

Associated Press writers John Seewer in Toledo and Ricardo-Alonso-Zaldivar in Washington contributed to this report.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Ohio's Republican governor wants to expand Medicaid under the federal health care law to cover more poor people in the state.

Gov. John Kasich's decision announced Monday is likely to face opposition within his own party from conservatives against President Barack Obama's health care law.

Kasich has criticized the law as well and its potential long-term costs.

The state thinks 365,000 Ohioans will be eligible for coverage under the expansion right away and expects to get $2.4 billion in federal funds over the next two years for the expansion.

A group of Ohio's doctors and hospitals back the idea.

The U.S. Supreme Court left it up to states last year to decide whether to expand Medicaid.

Kasich now will need to persuade the Republican-controlled state Legislature to go along.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


Facts And Figures About Ohio's Medicaid Program

Facts about the proposed expansion of Medicaid in Ohio, the state-federal program that helps pay for health care for low-income residents:

- WHO'S COVERED: Currently, 2.3 million people in Ohio receive health care from Medicaid. Expanding the program would make 365,000 more Ohioans eligible for coverage in the beginning.

- COST: Gov. John Kasich's administration says the federal government would send $2.4 billion to Ohio to cover those newly eligible for Medicaid over the next two years beginning in July, and $13 billion over the next seven years.

- WHO PAYS: The federal government now pays about 60 cents for every dollar spent under Medicaid, and the state covers the rest. For states choosing to broaden Medicaid, Washington will pick up the full price of expansion the first three years and 90 percent over time.

- START DATE: Medicaid expansion would take effect in 2014. But state lawmakers must first approve the plan.

- WHO QUALIFIES: If Medicaid expansion goes forward, people who make up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line - about $15,400 for an individual or just over $26,300 for a family of three - would be covered.

- ADDED REVENUE: The state expects to net $235 million because of a boost in tax revenue, plus additional savings from proposed Medicaid eligibility changes and savings on medical care for prisoners.

- OPTING OUT: Kasich proposal includes an automatic "opt-out" trigger that would shut down Ohio's program for newly eligible residents if the federal government doesn't pick up its share of expanded coverage.

- MORE ELIGIBLE: In addition to those who could come on to Medicaid under expansion, Ohio is bracing for 230,000 eligible Ohioans to sign up for Medicaid once the federal law requires most people to have health insurance. Officials estimate there will be a roughly $521 million increase in the cost of the program for the state in 2014 and 2015.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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