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Published: Thursday, 10/31/2013 - Updated: 10 months ago

Lawsuit challenging Ohio Medicaid expansion expedited

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

Editor's note: Updated version reflects changed in amount Ohio Controlling Board received.

COLUMBUS — The Ohio Supreme Court today put on the fast track a lawsuit challenging Gov. John Kasich’s move to use a legislative panel to clear the financial path for expansion of Medicaid.

Six conservative House Republicans have joined with pro-life organizations in Cleveland and Cincinnati to ask the high court to overturn the 5-2 decision of the Ohio Controlling Board to accept $2.56 billion in federal funds for pay for expansion.

Mr. Kasich turned to the panel, consisting of six legislators and a member of his administration as chairman, to do what the General Assembly as a whole would not—expand the federal-state health insurance of last resort by an estimated 275,000 Ohioans earning as much as 38 percent over the federal poverty level. That’s the equivalent of about $32,000 a year for a family of four.

The Supreme Court agreed with the plaintiffs that the case should be expedited because of the Jan. 1 date looming for implementation of the expansion. It set a 32-day briefing schedule that should carry the case at least into early December. The court did not set a date for oral arguments to hear personally from both sides.

The lawsuit contends that the Republican governor could not use the quasi-legislative budgetary panel to sidestep the wishes of the legislature.

The suit notes that the GOP-controlled General Assembly made its intent known when it stripped Mr. Kasich’s proposal to expand Medicaid from the state budget and then added language specifically prohibiting actions to implement the expansion without legislative approval.

Mr. Kasich, however, used his line-item veto authority to strike the prohibition from the two-year budget before he signed it.

The Kasich administration contends it is within the controlling board’s authority to accept federal funds that become available between budget votes of the legislature. Unless Ohio’s agreement with the federal government is changed, it is on the hook to expand Medicaid eligibility as of Jan. 1 regardless of whether the Supreme Court turns off the federal funding faucet.



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