Gov. John Kasich’s administration had to clear a new hurdle recently to get the $264.4 million in state money it needs to fund Ohio’s Medicaid program through the end of the fiscal year.
That hurdle is both a minor obstacle for the governor and sad sign of the way some of Ohio’s most vulnerable citizens are caught in the middle of a grudge match between Mr. Kasich and the General Assembly’s GOP contingent.
The Kasich administration could not access Ohio’s portion of the Medicaid funding (the federal government will cover another $634 million for Medicaid through 2018) without going before the Ohio Controlling Board, a quasi-legislative body. That extra step was mandated by a provision inserted in the state budget in June by Republican lawmakers who still chafe at Mr. Kasich’s decision in 2013 to opt in to the expanded Medicaid created by Obamacare.
The Controlling Board featured prominently in the fight that year too. Mr. Kasich circumvented the Republican-controlled General Assembly and went to the Controlling Board for the money to initially expand Medicaid’s rolls.
More than 725,000 Ohioans have since gained health insurance coverage. Many of them are the working poor for whom Obamacare has otherwise been a disappointment.
The Affordable Care Act has not delivered on many of its initial promises in Ohio. Premiums have been unaffordably high, patients have had to travel long distances to seek care, and too many counties have struggled to keep even one insurer available.
The one aspect of Obamacare that has consistently delivered in Ohio has been expanded Medicaid. Without it, many of the state’s most vulnerable citizens risk falling through the cracks with no access to health care.
Just because people go without insurance does not mean they go without getting sick, which is how expanded Medicaid has saved Ohio money. States that refused to expand Medicaid rolls when the Affordable Care Act created that option have spent more to provide health care to the poor mainly because they have not been able to tap the federal money available for that expansion.
The federal government currently picks up 95 percent of the tab, though that will gradually drop to 90 percent by 2020.
Many of Ohio’s Republican lawmakers wanted to refuse expansion purely out of political spite for President Obama and his signature health care bill. Much to his credit, Mr. Kasich was not among them.
The political feud launched by this rift has gone on long enough.
Republicans in the General Assembly need to move on and drop the spiteful attempts to undermine a vital program for Ohioans. Mr. Kasich needs to do some fence mending, and re-engage with his job, for the sake of creating a constructive relationship.
Expanded Medicaid has been an undeniable success in Ohio. It’s time for Republicans in Columbus to drop their battle over whether it is worthwhile and begin working with the governor to find ways to keep it affordable long into the future.
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