Test of leadership


Ohio hospitals, and other advocacy groups across the political spectrum, are fighting hard to expand eligibility for the state’s Medicaid program of health insurance for low-income people. The budget bill the state House will vote on this week, written by its Republican majority, excludes Republican Gov. John Kasich’s proposal for Medicaid expansion.

Dr. David Bronson of the Cleveland Clinic says: “It may take some time to turn the tide but we’re not giving up.” Neither should the governor, who must continue to fight for his plan.

Expanding Medicaid will create jobs, improve the health of thousands of Ohioans, and save the state money. The feds will pick up most of the tab. The expansion of Medicaid would mean a $1.4 billion net gain for Ohio’s budget by 2022.

There are currently 2.35 million people enrolled in Medicaid in Ohio. If the program expands, the nonpartisan Health Policy Institute of Ohio says that an additional 456,000 residents will qualify for coverage in the next decade. Roughly half of those are people who work full time but still fall below the poverty line.

But House Republicans say no to expansion and no to the federal dollars, apparently because the Medicaid money is tainted by Obamacare. These lawmakers are prepared to deny thousands of their fellow Ohioans health care, and thousands more jobs, to satisfy their zealotry.

Hospital officials and other advocates, promise an all-out, aggressive lobbying effort; a Statehouse rally last week drew 2,500 participants. They say many legislators still seem open-minded, and many more might change their minds once they understand the real-life ramifications of their opposition.

Governor Kasich says good for the hospitals, but it’s up to them now. But if he believes in the Medicaid expansion, he needs to buttonhole lawmakers, apply pressure, and spend his political capital to get them to change their minds. If lobbyists have to lead us, we are leaderless.

The destructive will of reactionaries should not be the last word on Medicaid expansion in Ohio. With appropriate leadership, it won’t be.