Ohio Governor John Kasich explains to a crowd in the Ohio Statehouse atrium why he believes the legislature should extend health coverage through Medicaid on July 9, 2013 in Columbus, Ohio. (Columbus Dispatch, Chris Russell)
COLUMBUS — Frustrated that half the summer is over and promised hearings over Medicaid expansion have yet to begin, an Ohio Senate Democrat on Tuesday tried to jumpstart the debate.
State Sen. Capri Cafaro (D., Hubbard) has all nine of her Democratic colleagues on board with a newly introduced bill but not a single Republican in a chamber where Democrats are outnumbered better than 2 to 1. Ms. Cafaro said she believes GOP leadership in the General Assembly has “no true interest” in moving forward with expansion.
The bill would tie expanded eligibility for the federal-state health insurance of last resort to those earning as much as 38 percent over the federal poverty level with efforts to contain costs and move people, when possible, into work-related or private coverage.
Democrats have found themselves on the same page with Gov. John Kasich, a Republican who has bucked his own party to push for Medicaid expansion. That expansion is one option to find coverage under the new federal mandate that most Americans must acquire health insurance by Jan. 1.
The federal government has promised to cover 100 percent of the costs of the expanded population for three years with the reimbursement rate gradually dropping to 90 percent after that. It promises to bring $13 billion in federal dollars to the state over the next seven years.
Mr. Kasich proposed expanding coverage to 275,000 more Ohioans over the next two years, but fellow Republicans removed that from the new state budget before they sent it to his desk last month for his signature.
“Senator Cafaro has put in bill form initiatives from our bicameral, bipartisan group, but I still believe we’re in the process of fact-finding and digesting that,” said state Sen. David Burke (R., Marysville), who is leading Senate GOP discussions on the issue.
“We have not evaluated where our constituents are on this issue,” he said. “We are not ready to communicate our findings to leadership in a meaningful way. It’s very early in the process. … This is a long-term commitment with large fiscal implications and one that cannot be reversed. There is just cause for hesitancy in the General Assembly, especially in the Senate. This is an issue that we’ve had very little time to digest.”
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