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Ohio gets Medicaid expansion

Ike Mgbatogu | 10/23/2013, 9:38 a.m.
state legislature to go along with his proposed Medicaid expansion agenda, took his case to the state Controlling Board where ...

COLUMBUS – At the national level, the Republican Party is being fractured by a raging civil war between the moderate wing of the party and the Tea Party extreme elements. Here in the Buckeye State, though simmering from a vastly different dimension, one has been playing out for months too.

And it may ultimately end up in court.

Recently, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, after failing to convince members of his Republican Party in the state legislature to go along with his proposed Medicaid expansion agenda, took his case to the state Controlling Board where the six member cabal of lawmakers approved the governor’s plan, causing jubilation among many who fought alongside Kasich to pull this off.

“We did everything we could to pass Medicaid expansion,” said State Representative Sandra Williams from Cleveland. “From advocating to keep the budget provision intact, to a discharge petition that would bring a stand-alone bill directly to the House floor. It is unfortunate that we had to go through Controlling Board but, if that is what it takes to bring affordable health care to more than 72,000 new enrollees in Cuyahoga County alone, then so be it,” she said.

It is 72,000 in William’s home county, but statewide, that number shoots up to 275,000 who will gain health care insurance from this.

House Democratic Leader Tracy Maxwell Heard from Columbus applauded the achievement, lauding the state Controlling Board’s for doing the right thing.

“Today, Ohio is poised to be the twenty-sixth state to implement the crown jewel of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – Medicaid expansion,” said Leader Heard, adding, “I welcome Gov. Kasich’s attempt to do the right thing by the citizens of Ohio.” Heard, however, expressed a dollop of concern about not achieving this “through the traditional legislative process.” In her eyes, this is “a temporary solution to an ongoing problem.”

“Ongoing” could mean that Republican lawmakers are not about to concede defeat as they plan to go to court to sustain their effort to kill Medicaid expansion in Ohio. For months, Kasich have relentlessly called for this. He tried to woo members of his party to see the basic commonsense in supporting the policy aimed at extending health care coverage to thousands of Ohioans currently without it. The expansion will be funded entirely from the start by $13 billion in federal succor, with coverage for new enrollees to start as soon as 2014.

By circumventing the GOP-controlled legislature on this, Kasich has finally achieved his longstanding aim of bringing massive federal health care dollars to Ohio for Ohioans. This approval could immediately unleash an initial funding of $2.56 billion to pay for coverage. But all of this has stoked the fury of the governor’s Republican colleagues in the legislature where his once loyal minions are now threatening to sue him following a vote last week in which 39 of 60 House Republicans expressed profound disappointment at the governor’s move to sidestep the legislature.

The threat of a lawsuit seems bizarre, to say the very least. But it could be real. Whether or not House Republicans follow through with their orotund threat of a lawsuit remains to be seen, but former Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives Jo Ann Davidson recently weighed in on the cacophonous development with dismay, expressing the view that Kasich is standing on “firm ground” by asking the Controlling Board to approve his Medicaid expansion policy. She strongly denounced GOP House members for threatening to sue the governor.