Tea Party Rejects, Business Support, Medicaid Expansion

Feb 26, 2013

Earlier this month, Republican State Treasurer Josh Mandel raised some eyebrows for criticizing fellow Republican John Kasich's proposal to expand Medicaid coverage to more Ohioans, and some conservatives are still balking at the idea.

Several tea party groups in Ohio say they'll work to stop the state from expanding Medicaid coverage for low-income residents, arguing it will be too costly and won't reduce high health care costs down the road. Leaders of two dozen tea party organizations sent a letter to Republican Gov. John Kasich telling him that they're against his Medicaid proposal. But many Ohio businesses and hospitals say they support the plan which would help thousands of low-income residents ccurrently without health coverage. Matt Davis with the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce says a wide range of organizations and businesses support the plan.

Davis: It's making interesting groups of alliances of folks who normally take different positions on different issues, coming together on this, and I think it's because approximately 275-thousand low-income Ohioans will have insurance coverage. And that's a very good thing for economic development reasons.

Amy Schultz Clubbs, president of Molina Healthcare of Ohio, says Medicaid expansion will better help health care organizations coordinate services, and more federal funds will advance changes already under way.

Clubbs: Two years ago the state government began transforming Medicaid in Ohio. And through the integration and efficiencies services are improving and taxpayers are seeing the value.

John Corlett of MetroHealth hospital in Cleveland says his organization supports expansion because it has become more difficult to provide care to the uninsured.

Corlett: We know from our experience that connecting uninsured patients with a primary care physician reduces costly emergency room and in-patient use and saves money all along the way, for MetroHealth, for patients, and for the state.

Corlett says the expansion will help provide coverage for an uninsured person making up to 8 dollars an hour or nearly 14 dollars an hour for a person supporting a family of three. The Governor's office says Ohio will receive an estimated 20 billion federal dollars to cover the costs of the expansion. Some Republican lawmakers and Tea Party activists oppose the expansion, citing concerns about the cost.

State lawmakers, who must approve the expansion, are hearing details about the plan included in Kasich's two-year budget proposal. The director of Ohio's Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services told the House finance committee on Tuesday that expanding Medicaid would reduce wait times for counseling and other services and save the state money. Tracy Plouck, director of the department, said many Ohio residents who receive mental health and addiction treatment paid for by the state and local governments would be eligible for those services through Medicaid if the expansion is approved.

The governor has said that expansion will allow the state to get back Ohio residents' tax dollars from the federal government, which would pay the entire cost of the expansion for the first three years. The state would see $13 billion from the federal government over the next seven years to cover those newly eligible for Medicaid, according to the Kasich administration. Roughly 366,000 Ohio residents would be eligible for coverage under the expansion beginning in 2014.