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Published: Friday, 5/10/2013

Governor patient on Medicaid issue

Kasich says he hasn’t given up

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS — Supporters of a Medicaid expansion have talked about putting the question on the statewide ballot, a move Gov. John Kasich recognized while attending a mental health awareness event on Wednesday.

“I’m for it, however we get there,” Mr. Kasich said, but he stressed he hasn’t given up on lawmakers.

“I’ll be combative when I have to be combative, but there are times when you just have to be patient,” Mr. Kasich said.

House Republicans have stripped his proposed Medicaid expansion from the governor’s budget, and Senate GOP leadership has indicated no plan to reinsert it. Supporters of the expansion, however, have talked about trying to do an end run around Republicans by putting the question on the ballot.

It’s unlikely any petition effort to put the question directly to voters could qualify for this year’s ballot.

Mr. Kasich again held out mental health as one of the factors that convinced him to pursue expansion of Medicaid eligibility.

By expanding income eligibility to 38 percent over the federal poverty level, about $32,000 a year for a family of four, the administration figures it will add 275,000 Ohioans, mostly working adults, to the rolls over the next two years.

The federal government has promised to pick up the entire cost of these new additions for the first three years and then gradually reduce the reimbursement rate to 90 percent thereafter. Ohio is expected to draw $13 billion in federal funds over seven years.

While he praised lawmakers for adding $500 million to the budget as an alternative to help hospitals and the mentally ill, Mr. Kasich said, “…[W]hen you consider the fact that you spend $500 million to turn down $2 billion, that’s not really a conservative position.”

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.



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