Governor John Kasich's two year state budget plan proposes expanding Medicaid services, a move that would give 365-thousand poor people access to health care.
The move pleases many progressives who've been pushing for the expansion under the federal health care law. But some conservatives are critical. Ohio Public Radio's Jo Ingles reports.
Governor Kasich says make no mistake…..by expanding Medicaid in the proposed two year state budget, he’s not giving his endorsement to President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
Kasich - We are going to continue our insurance regulation in Ohio. We are not going to let the federal government take that over. It is critical for our financial services situation in Ohio which is really good. We are also not endorsing an individual mandate. And these insurance reforms have the potential to be devastating on the state.
But Kasich says he has been working with the federal government to allow Ohio to have more flexibility over its Medicaid program. And he thinks that’s what will happen in the end. So, he’s willing to expand Medicaid now. Kasich says by doing that, 275 thousand low income Ohioans will be eligible for Medicaid coverage…with a new Medicaid co-payment applied for non-emergency treatment in an emergency room so they won’t have to resort to getting medical care in the most expensive setting.
Kasich - We don’t want 275,000 Ohioans getting their primary care in an emergency room. It is not sustainable, it doesn’t work, it is not humane and it costs everybody a lot of money. And it’s more than just the cost of the visit. Secondly, 13 billion of our own money back here to treat and solve Ohio’s problem. It’s our money, let’s bring it home.
Kasich says his plan for use of those Medicaid funds would save the state 235 million dollars in this two year budget alone. And he says it would strengthen and expand local mental health and addiction services….freeing up 100 million dollars in local community funds. All of this pleases Jane Taylor, the State Director for Ohio AARP.
Taylor - This will be significant to help those who are 50 to 64. There are those who tell us who’ve lost their jobs how much they are struggling in trying to find health care and those who have lower paying jobs but just don’t have health care, however, they are not eligible, at this point, for Medicaid.
Taylor says this Medicaid expansion will lower costs across the entire health care system for everyone. But Robert Alt of the Conservative think tank, the Buckeye Institute, disagrees. He says expanding Medicaid will lead to a couple of problems.
Alt – There is too great of risk in the long term in terms of Ohio to be signing on to that. Our other concern is that Medicaid provides a very poor standard of outcomes and we don’t think you should be driving more Ohioans into a failing program.
For his part, Governor Kasich says he shares the concern about what will happen in the future to the Medicaid program. But he notes changes in the way Medicaid will be funded in the future would mean fewer dollars available for Ohio’s hospitals and health care providers as they would face federal cuts without the expansion. And Kasich is hopeful the federal government will provide Ohio with the flexibility the state needs to make the expansion possible. He puts it this way:
Kasich - If the federal government pulls the rug from under us and does not work with us, it’s going to create chaos. They should not do that. They are making a promise. Live up to it.