Medicaid suit on fast track


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

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

Mr. Kasich turned to the panel — six legislators plus 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 annually for a family of four.

The Supreme Court agreed with the plaintiffs that the case should be expedited because of the looming Jan. 1 implementation date for 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 both sides' oral arguments.

“It’s all within the rules,” Mr. Kasich said Thursday. “I don’t get into litigation, but we think it’s just fine.”

The lawsuit contends that the Republican governor could not use the budgetary panel to sidestep the legislature’s wishes.

The suit, filed through the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, argues the GOP-controlled General Assembly made its intent known when it stripped Mr. Kasich’s proposal to expand Medicaid from the state budget, then added language specifically prohibiting actions to implement it without legislative approval.

Mr. Kasich, however, used his line-item veto authority to strike that 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 state Supreme Court blocks funding.

— Jim Provance