A new study affirms that expanding Ohio’s Medicaid program of low-income health insurance under the federal Affordable Care Act would cost less than doing nothing — if the state also limits the growth of Medicaid spending, as it appears determined to do.
If Ohio did those two things, the Health Policy Institute of Ohio concludes, the state would save $200 million next year and nearly $4 billion a year by 2025. So the right and humane thing is also the fiscally prudent thing.
Yet Republican leaders of the General Assembly continue to ignore Republican Gov. John Kasich’s pleas to expand eligibility for Medicaid, making health insurance newly available to 275,000 working-poor Ohioans over two years.
The federal government would pay almost all of the cost of Medicaid expansion. But GOP lawmakers remain willing to deny their constituents access to health care to satisfy the extremist Tea Party ideology, which manifests itself in knee-jerk opposition to Obamacare.
Governor Kasich, balancing conservatism with pragmatism, said at a recent rally that the issue is helping real people, not swearing allegiance to political abstractions. But he is in the minority in his own party.
In the Toledo area, state Rep. Barbara Sears of Monclova Township may face a Republican primary challenge next year because of her support for Medicaid expansion. She says that “99 percent of what I do” is in line with Tea Party goals. But 99 percent is not enough for zealots, and other GOP lawmakers know that.
So lawmakers refuse to interrupt the vacation they haven’t earned to deal with the most important issue before the state right now. They are leaving $13 billion in federal aid on the table. Instead, the state will spend more money to preserve the indefensible status quo.
The Kasich administration might have more credibility on the issue of Medicaid expansion if it weren’t walking away from planning for the online insurance exchange that is scheduled to launch Oct. 1 to help Ohioans buy health coverage under Obamacare.
The state Insurance Department has prepared no public information campaign about the exchange, even though most Americans face a Jan. 1 deadline to obtain health insurance. Federal officials are struggling to create Ohio’s exchange; the nation’s third-largest health insurer, Aetna, said this week it won’t participate in the program.
But Mr. Kasich is still right about Medicaid. Republican state lawmakers are disgracing themselves and hurting a lot of Ohioans. That’s not responsible, and it’s not right.