Home Politics Debate heats up over Kasich’s Medicaid plan

Debate heats up over Kasich’s Medicaid plan

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Ohio Governor John Kasich’s controversial decision to support expanded Medicaid coverage has been widely publicized, but as House Republicans prepare to debate his proposal this week, the issue is gaining even more attention in the state legislature.

Kasich, known for his commitment to the GOP’s usual fiscally conservative policy, was criticized by Keith Faber, president of the Ohio Senate, last week. Faber told the Columbus Dispatch that the “disabled and mental health component would be desirable to fix” and that Kasich’s expansion plan “doesn’t give us the flexibility to target those populations that might work better than just flat-out Medicaid.”

Faber and other Ohio congressional Republicans have expressed concern that the expansion could cause significant deficits.

The governor’s decision to include Medicaid expansion in his new two-year, $63.3 billion budget was unexpected, given the fact that he has publicly stated that he does not support the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act. However, during his State of the State address in February, he said that he felt it was his Christian duty to help the less fortunate in his home state, including the homeless, the mentally ill and those suffering from addictions.

“Extending Medicaid benefits will help us on many levels, including the positive impact this decision can have on the mentally ill and the addicted,” Kasich said in the address. “Some of them live under bridges. Some of them live on streets. Some of them are in our jails tonight.”

If Kasich’s proposal is successful, Ohio will receive $13 billion in taxpayer money over seven years from Washington.

One group backing the governor’s proposal is the County Commissioners Association of Ohio (CCAO). CCAO President Larry Long appeared at a meeting of the Athens County Commissioners last month, where he announced the organization’s decision.

Long cited that there are approximately 275,000 individuals currently receiving Medicaid benefits in Ohio, and that the association supports the Kasich administration’s plan to fund the expansion to 138 percent of the poverty level.

“We want to be sure that there’s enough money there to do the job,” Long said at the March 12 meeting.

Later this week, House Republicans are expected to debate alternatives to Kasich’s plan, one of which involves using state rather than federal money to fund premium assistance. Last week, Kasich said that he “won’t tolerate” the rejection of federal money if it means that Ohio’s own money would be spent.

Faber, on the other hand, is supportive of a program that utilizes state funds to finance assistance programs.

“If we could design our own program, we would be able to, I think, with existing funds provide a system that’s going to better serve Ohioans. But that does not at this point appear to be an option,” Faber said.

No GOP leaders of either the Ohio House or Senate have currently publicly announced support for the governor’s plan.

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