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COLUMBUS — Gov. John Kasich will try an end-run around the Ohio General Assembly as a whole by going directly to a legislative panel that he hopes will open the flow of $2.5 billion in federal funds over the next year and a half to pay for an expansion of Medicaid under the federal health-care law.
The application to the Ohio Controlling Board is expected to be made today after the federal government late Thursday approved the state’s participation. The board is scheduled to meet on Oct. 21.
The vote would expand income eligibility for the federal-state health insurance of last resort to those earning as much as 38 percent over the federal poverty level. That’s roughly $32,000 a year for a family of four.
Greg Moody, director of Mr. Kasich’s Office of Health Transformation, said today that the question will be on the controlling board’s agenda on Oct. 21.
The seven-member panel consists of four Republican legislators, two Democrats, and one Kasich appointee. Assuming the two Democrats join Mr. Kasich’s representative, the governor would need one Republican vote to make it happen.
““The controlling board has the authority to adjust federal appropriations levels,” Mr. Moody said. “(Medicaid Director) John McCarthy has submitted a request to the controlling board that would allow a federal appropriation to a level that would allow us to receive and expend money. We believe the only remaining action is to extend coverage.”
The state will ask for $500 million in federal funds for the period between Jan. 1 and June 30, 2014, and $1.99 billion for the year ending June 30, 2015.
The federal government has promised to pay 100 percent of the cost of the expanded population and would then gradually reduce the reimbursement to the state to 90 percent.
Mr. Moody noted that, because of the full federal funding during the current two-year budget cycle, the state would not have appropriate state money first to draw down the federal funds.
“The controlling board does not have authority to change appropriation levels for state funds, but it does have the authority to change appropriation levels for federal funds,” he said. “This is within the controlling board’s authority to act.”
The maneuver is likely to invite litigation by opponents of any expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.
“We prepare for everything,” Mr. Moody said, “but we’ve been very careful to understand the nature of the authority involved.”