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Democrats back governor's failed Medicaid plan

Proposed expansion of Medicaid cut by Ohio GOP panel

COLUMBUS — The day after fellow Republicans stripped Gov. John Kasish’s budget of his plan to work with the federal government to expand Medicaid, the governor said the ball is in the court of public opinion.

“A lot of this is now up to the outside groups,” he said Wednesday. 

“I couldn’t be any clearer. I couldn’t give any more speeches. I’m not in any way, shape, or form going to shrink from my firm belief on this.”

A GOP-controlled Ohio House committee on Tuesday killed or severely altered his proposals to expand health-care coverage for the poor under the federal health-care law and overhaul sales and energy drilling taxes to fund a personal income tax cut.

Minority Democrats will introduce a separate bill containing Mr. Kasich’s language.

“I have yet to receive a phone call from the speaker or the governor on Medicaid,” Minority Leader Armond Budish (D., Beachwood) said.

House Speaker Bill Batchelder (R.,Medina) estimated on Tuesday that 20 of his 60 members would never vote for the expansion, an additional 20 believe the state should do something, and the third 20 need more information from the federal government.

Mr. Kasich said he doesn’t know whether a coalition of Democratic and Republican votes could be cobbled together to save the expansion.

“I’m not a mechanic,” he said. “I’m the governor. I just had a Democratic senator say to me, ‘Hey, we’d like to help you on this.…’ This is a time where the legislature has to work things out themselves. Are all of the Democrats going to vote for the budget? If there’s a separate deal, what do you get? Thirty-nine votes? That doesn’t get you to 50.”

If the expansion stands alone as a separate bill, Mr. Budish said he believed he could supply the votes of all 39 caucus members, leaving the need of at least 11 Republican votes.

But there was no such commitment for the entire budget if it contains the expansion.

Despite his disdain for President Obama’s signature health-care reform law, Mr. Kasich has decided that expanding income eligibility under Medicaid to 38 percent over the federal poverty level, about $32,000 a year for a family of four, make sense for Ohio.

The expansion would attract an estimated $13 billion in federal subsidies.

The federal government has pledged to pay for the expansion during the first three years and then at least 90 percent for several years after that.

The House Finance and Appropriations Committee, however, removed that language from the bill.

Instead, it added more money for hospitals to make up for cuts in their federal subsidies for caring for the uninsured once Obamacare fully kicks in.

It also has added $100 million over the two-year budget to boost services for the mentally ill and drug addicted, two populations Mr. Kasich has often cited as being helped by the expansion.

Tea Party leader Tom Zawistowski, who wants to lead the Ohio Republican Party, wrote a letter Tuesday applauding House Republicans’ decision.

“This vote may prevent the defection of a critical part of our party base," he wrote.

Mr. Kasich said he’s not taking it personally that his own party has dismantled some significant portions of his $63.3 billion, budget proposal.

“You don’t knock the pieces off the chess board just because you don’t get everything you want,” he said. “You just have to unlock people, and sometimes it just takes more time than less time.”

And there’s still the Senate, he said.

Contact Jim Provance at: or 614-221-0496.

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