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Kasich expands Medicaid coverage; conservative groups threaten legal action

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During the presidential election last fall, Ohio was seen as a crucial battleground state by both the Barack Obama and Mitt Romney campaigns. Both candidates and their respective PACs spent millions of dollars on airtime for political ads, and they each frantically crisscrossed the state in last minute attempts to sway voters, including a last-minute trip to Athens by President Barack Obama.

Though the election was pretty much decided before the votes from Ohio were all tallied up, Ohio will continue to be important to future presidential elections, and in fact, is important to political events happening in the present.

Earlier this week, Gov. John Kasich expanded Medicaid coverage in the state, making Ohio the 25th state to do so. The issue is now evenly split among all states, and Ohio is the fourth state where the GOP controls both the legislative and executive branches to expand Medicaid.

Ohio’s legislature had originally voted to strip the expansion from the state’s budget, which led Kasich to resort to the unconventional method of using the Controlling Board to get around the Ohio General Assembly. 

The Controlling Board is “a mechanism for handling certain limited day-to-day adjustments needed in the state budget” according to the state government’s official website. It consists of 7 members that are appointed by the Senate and the House, and almost never deals with matters as large as Medicaid expansion. This Monday, however, the Board voted 5-2 to expand Medicaid, which is estimated to benefit 275,000 adults in Ohio, according to the Kasich Administration. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Kasich’s move drew criticism from conservatives not only in Ohio, but also across the nation. Several groups are preparing to sue the government, and Tim Phillips of the conservative group Americans for Prosperity added in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, that it was “…outrageous that a governor would then go around the elected representatives of the people and go to an unelected board.”

Kasich was elected on a conservative platform with the support of Tea Party groups. He had previously served as a member of the House of Representatives, had been a commentator on Fox News, and briefly ran for president in 2000. As governor, he has taken very few actions to betray his conservative principles: he has cut the budgets, taxes, and managed to drop the state’s unemployment levels. 

Kasich’s website featured only a brief statement about the approval, which said, “Together with the General Assembly we’ve improved both the quality of care from Medicaid and its value for taxpayers. Today’s action takes another positive step in this mutual effort.” Many public groups praised the governor’s actions, arguing that the federal government would foot the bill for the expansion for 3 years, and then 90 percent of the costs beyond that. An editorial from the Cincinnati Enquirer that was posted on the governor’s website said, “Kudos to Gov. John Kasich for having the courage to buck many of his party’s legislators and push ahead with an expansion of Ohio’s Medicaid health insurance program.”

Republicans could possibly wage a legal battle over whether Kasich has the ability to go around the legislature, since the expansion will also greatly affect Kasich’s re-election campaign next year. But for now, the decision to grant health insurance to 275,000 Ohioans remains intact.

 

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