Ohio GOP lawmakers won't follow Kasich into Medicaid expansion


COLUMBUS — Gov. John Kasich’s fellow Republicans do not plan to follow him into an expansion of the Medicaid program to cover some 400,000 additional uninsured Ohioans over the long term.

Sources close to House talks told The Blade today that an amended version of the governor’s $63.3 billion, two-year budget to be rolled out Tuesday will not contain Mr. Kasich’s plan to expand eligibility for the government insurance program of last resort to those earning as much as 38 percent over the federal poverty level. That's about $31,800 for a family of four.

Despite Democratic support for this provision, there were apparently not enough House Republican votes for a plan that some members of the caucus see as caving to President Obama’s health care reform law.

As expected, the amended budget will also not include Mr. Kasich’s proposal to greatly expand the sales tax base to include many previously untaxed professional services. Also gone is his proposal to hike severance taxes on the extraction of shale oil and natural gas.

Those two revenue-producers were designed to help underwrite a personal income tax cut for individuals and small businesses. Some version of that income tax cut will survive, but it remains to be seen what it will look like as the plan relies primarily on expected growth in existing tax revenue streams.

There are also expected to be significant changes to the way Mr. Kasich has proposed funding K-12 schools in the plan.

The House Finance and Appropriations Committee will begin debate on the revised budget on Tuesday with the hope of getting a full House vote on the spending blueprint next week. Then the ball will move to the Senate

By saying “no” to the expansion in, the state is also turning away what has been estimated by the nonpartisan Health Policy Institute of Ohio to be a net gain of $1.4 billion to the state by 2022 above what the move is expected to cost the state.

Such numbers led Mr. Kasich to put aside his own disdain for what has been commonly called Obamacare to embrace the expansion. The federal government has promised to pick up 100 percent of the costs of the expanded coverage for three years. The federal share would gradually decline to 90 percent after that.