Thursday, Aug 17, 2017
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Hands off Medicaid expansion

Medicaid expansion has been a success in Ohio. As the region’s congressional delegation fights to preserve it in Washington, the General Assembly must not weaken it from Columbus.

The two-year budget bill approved by the Ohio House allows the Medicaid expansion, championed at great political risk by Gov. John Kasich, to continue. But Republicans who opposed the governor’s departure from mainstream party opposition to the expansion continue to try to chip away at it.

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The Ohio House of Representatives passed a budget with new stipulations on Medicaid expansion.

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The House version of the state budget includes a provision that would require state officials to ask the Trump Administration for approval to impose work requirements on most of the 715,000 people who have joined the expanded program. People who are too sick or weak, in school, training for a new job, or getting substance-abuse treatment could be exempt from this provision, but it should not be necessary for anyone to jump through this hoop for health insurance.

Medicaid expansion has greatly helped Ohio by keeping the state’s poorest and most vulnerable from slipping through the cracks with no access to health care. It’s not a handout to be whittled away out of political spite.

The House bill also makes the Kasich administration jump through hoops to spend the state’s share — only 5 percent of the total cost now and rising to just 10 percent in 2020, because the federal government covers the rest — of the expanded cost. Administration officials would have to seek permission from the Controlling Board to release the necessary funds every six months.

Republican Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) went to the mat in March, fighting to keep Ohio’s right (every state’s right) to preserve Medicaid expansion in any Obamacare replacement bill. He did that because expanded Medicaid has been an undeniable success.

Lucas County has been one of the biggest beneficiaries, with 13 percent of the county’s 19 to 64-year-olds gaining health-care coverage via the expansion.

The state Senate should strip these punitive restrictions from the budget, and Governor Kasich should not sign any bill that still includes them.

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