The Fight To Expand Medicaid

Apr 11, 2013

The decision by the Republican leaders of the Ohio House to strip an expansion of Medicaid from its budget is not setting well with other lawmakers, including Ohio’s Republican Governor. 

And as Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles reports, Democrats are poised to fight it.

Governor John Kasich wants the expansion of Medicaid in Ohio.  Leaders of the Ohio House don’t.  They did put some money in the budget for some items in lieu of Medicaid expansion but that doesn’t cut it for Kasich.

Kasich – What they’ve done is restore some money to the hospitals.  It’s up to hospitals to tell you how they feel about it but I don’t think long term, it’s sustaining for them.  And they’ve put some money in mental health and addiction services.  They didn’t create really a parallel system.  But I do believe we need that billions of dollars in here.  It’s good for our economy, it’s good for our rural communities, it’s good for our urban communities, it’s good for veterans, it’s good for the working poor.  I just don’t agree with them and they know I don’t agree with them.

Yet Kasich says there are limits to what he, as Governor, can do to change the situation.

Kasich – I can’t turn water into wine.

Kasich says it’s time for supporters of the Medicaid expansion plan to make the case for it with Republican lawmakers.

Kasich – That involves this entire community….the provider community, mental health community…they just have to say how important it is to them.

One group that’s already speaking out loudly against the house’s decision to drop Medicaid expansion is a group that doesn’t often agree with Kasich…..Democrats.  Representative John Carney is one of the Democratic lawmakers who are drafting a bill that would include the expansion of Medicaid that Governor Kasich supports.

Carney - Rejecting Medicaid expansion is not fiscally conservative.  It’s fiscally irresponsible.  Let’s keep in mind here that members of this body are not congress.  We are members of the state legislature and it is our job to look out for the 11 and a half million citizens here in the state with respect to the best health care system we can put forward. 
At the moment, Republican House Speaker Bill Batchelder isn’t weighing in for or against bringing the stand alone Medicaid bill up for a vote.

Batchelder – We would have to be certain that the votes were actually there.  Not to depreciate anyone’s sincerity or so forth but we would have to do a head count that was pretty binding and at this time we have not done that.

The leader of Minority Democrats in the Ohio House, Armond Budish, says he welcomes the opportunity to visit with Batchelder on the matter.  As far as votes for the Medicaid expansion as a stand alone bill, Budish says count the Democrats in.

Budish – As a stand alone bill, I would be optimistic about providing 39 votes out of 39 people.  I can’t say for sure because I haven’t talked to every person but nobody has come to me and said they have a problem with expanding Medicaid.

Democrats say they think there are enough Republicans who favor Medicaid expansion to pass the bill on its own merits.  While Democrats continue to push for the expansion of Medicaid, a handful of Democrats are taking matters a step further.  They are introducing another bill that would create a universal health care plan for Ohio.  And it’s unlikely that bill would be given serious consideration by the Republican controlled legislature.