Ohio’s Kasich Accepting Medicaid Expansion Under ‘Obama-care’

Photograph by Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

John Kasich, governor of Ohio, center, announces his state’s choice for presidential candidate at the Republican National Convention.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, an opponent of President Barack Obama’s federal health care program, has joined Republican governors in states including Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico in saying he supports the state accepting the Medicaid expansion under the law.

Kasich also has talked with Valerie Jarrett, a White House senior adviser, about expanding flexibility to allow more people to buy into private insurance through federal health exchanges, he says.

The first-term governor says that despite his objections to the individual mandate and other provisions in the Affordable Care Act adopted in 2010, he wants the Medicaid expansion because many poor Ohioans get care in emergency rooms. Not opting in would create “a financial chaos” at hospitals that would lose federal reimbursement for uncompensated care, and because Ohio will recapture about $13 billion in tax dollars over seven years, he adds

“It makes great sense for the state of Ohio because it will allow us to deliver care using our dollars to people who up to know haven’t been able to afford care,” Kasich said this afternoon during a presentation on his two-year budget proposal.

The U.S. Supreme Court left it up to each state to decide whether it would expand Medicaid eligibility to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $23,000 a year for a family of four. For Ohio, that could mean an additional 275,000 uninsured people could gain access to coverage, said Greg Moody, director of the Ohio Office of Health Transformation.

Kasich said he also has tried to encourage other Republicans and Democrats to join him in pushing for allowing those between 100 percent and 138 percent of poverty to buy into private health exchanges. Kasich said he spoke with Jarrett on Wednesday night about it.

“I want to thank Valerie Jarrett today for being willing to work with us,” Kasich told reporters.

While state hospitals and business groups including the Greater Cleveland Partnership backed the expansion, there is opposition among the Republican members who control the Ohio House, Speaker William Batchelder told reporters last week.

Still, Kasich’s willingness to participate in the Medicaid expansion can help “break the logjam” among Republican governors opposing it, Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, said in a statement.

Kasich said that while he doesn’t know what other Republican governors will do, it’s a good sign that the Obama administration is talking.

“Doesn’t it stand to reason, by the fact that they are now discussing the willingness to look at other alternatives, it should send a signal not just to Republican governors but to should send a signal to everybody that there’s some willingness to try to work together?” Kasich asked. “There’s a lot of big decisions that have to be made over the next few years, and a lock-down between the political parties or even within the political parties is not helpful to the people of this country and the people of our state.”



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