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Ohio gets Medicaid expansion

Ike Mgbatogu | 10/23/2013, 9:38 a.m.

“You know, whether they just wanted to make a statement or whatever, I have no idea what they were thinking or the logic in doing that,” said Davidson.

The raging tiff among Republicans over Medicaid expansion immensely intensified recently after the Obama administration approved the state’s request to expand Medicaid to cover Ohio residents earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. That approval was precisely what triggered Kasich’s move to ask the Controlling Board to imprimatur his policy to pave the way for extending health care coverage to Ohioans, said Greg Moody, director of the governor’s Office of Health Transformation.

“We think, as of June 2015, we would have a net increase enrollment of 275,000 Ohioans,” said Moody.

Ironically, Governor Kasich has relied on Democratic lawmakers for the support he needed to make his case for Medicaid expansion; an alliance which has made this achievement possible. This is good news for thousands of Ohioans currently dangling without health care coverage. When Kasich took his request to the Controlling Board, it was a move that largely assured approval for his plan. And here’s why. The board has four Republicans and two Democrats serving on it, headed by Randy Cole, who was appointed by Kasich.

The statutory role of the board is primarily to sign off on spending requests submitted by state agencies.

Governor Kasich started calling for Medicaid expansion back in February. It was part of his recent $62 billion budget state’s biennial budget, though it was yanked by House Republicans before he signed the proposal into law.

Why are House Republicans opposed to Medicaid expansion? Because of their view that it will grow the deficit, balloon the national debt while handing Ohio a precarious agreement they fear could unravel if the federal government decides to back away from it in the future.

Going to the Controlling Board was not how Kasich had hoped to resolve this. He hoped that further discussions on the matter would be sufficient to slowly bring his recalcitrant Republican minions on board. But it did not play out that way after Democrats accused the Republican leadership of simply stalling and not serious about making the necessary commitment to reach a compromise on the issue.

Democratic lawmakers also accused the Republican leadership of simply being disingenuous and intentionally stringing the discussion along to nowhere, culminating in House Speaker Bill Batchelder suddenly dropping his earlier commitment to use “as needed session” in September to convene members of both parties for talks on Medicaid expansion.

Apparently, Kasich grew tired of that lollygagging around and moved to pursue a more optimistic path to achieve his goal. It all worked out for him and for thousands of Ohioans who desperately need this.

Mgbatogu is a freelance writer and editor of Onumba.com based in Columbus. He can be reached by email at: Onumbamedia@yahoo.com