A Democratic state senator says politics are holding up Medicaid expansion and reform, so she’s proposing a bill that she says will force the issue.
But Statehouse correspondent Karen Kasler reports Republican leaders aren’t sounding ready to move on Medicaid.
Since Gov. John Kasich first proposed the state expand Medicaid to people making 138 percent of the federal poverty level, a bill to do that was sponsored by a single Republican – with no other GOP cosponsors. Another measure to reform but not expand Medicaid was put together by two Republicans and two Democrats. One of the Democrats is Sen. Capri Cafaro of Hubbard near Youngstown. Legislative leaders said in a press conference before the budget was signed that talks on Medicaid were ongoing. But Cafaro says she’s frustrated that there have been no hearings on that Medicaid reform bill since lawmakers went home for summer recess. And she lays the blame for that on partisan politics.
“There is no other option but to introduce a stand-alone piece of legislation to move the dialogue forward. Hundreds of thousands of Ohioans lives hang in the balance simply because they are part of a population that is caught straight in the crosshairs of political marksmanship.”
Cafaro’s bill takes many elements of the bipartisan reform bill that has yet to be heard in committee – but she says those elements will save the state money through cost efficiency and legislative oversight. But it also authorizes Medicaid expansion, paid for with 500 million federal dollars. And it includes what she calls circuit breaker language that would roll back the expansion if federal changes are made – a major concern for many expansion opponents. She says it does what Republican Senate President Keith Faber has said it must do – it will cover more people with less money.
“Well, President Faber, here it is. Now what? What’s the excuse now? Sadly, I believe there’s only one reason not to act at this time. That’s motivated by cowardice, by fear, and by being selfishly motivated by politics.”
The fear, she says, is that lawmakers will face challengers in next year’s primaries from conservative opponents of Medicaid expansion. House Republican caucus spokesman Mike Dittoe says lawmakers are moving slowly on purpose – but things are moving.
“Electoral politics have nothing to do with this. This is a matter about the state’s finances and our ability to maintain a commitment to a proposed 275,000 people being added to the state’s Medicaid rolls. That is a lot of money.”
And Republican Senate President Keith Faber – the target of much of Cafaro’s criticism about what she considers the lack of progress on the bipartisan Medicaid reform bill - says the ideas and numbers in Cafaro’s bill that she touts as definitive money-savers are still being vetted. And he’s not happy with her comments.
“If Sen. Cafaro wants to continue to participate in a bipartisan goal towards doing good policy, we encourage her to participate in it. But if it seems she’s taken a turn to want to make this about politics, then maybe her participation should be more suspect.”
Faber says hearings will start on the bipartisan reform bill will start next week, and a vote could come by early fall. Over in the House, Republican Finance Committee chair Ron Amstutz of Wooster has said he hopes to have a package of bills on Medicaid reform ready around October 1. But Amstutz also wrote in a statement that never mentioned Sen. Cafaro – quoting here – “there is frustration on all sides of this issue, and that the question is what we choose to do with our frustration. Obviously, complaining is one choice.”