Ohio’s new Medicaid expansion could cover 330,000 people


Ohio Gov. John Kasich speaks at the Cleveland Clinic, using one of the nation’s best known hospitals to make a final public push for Medicaid expansion. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

In Obamacare news not remotely related to HealthCare.gov, an Ohio board has voted to accept $2.5 billion in federal funds to expand its Medicaid program.

That means around 275,000 or 330,000 low-income Ohioans (depending on whose numbers you use) will now qualify to participate in the program come Jan. 1.

“Together with the General Assembly we’ve improved both the quality of care from Medicaid and its value for taxpayers," Ohio Gov. John Kasich said in a statement to the Columbus Dispatch. "Today’s action takes another positive step in this mutual effort.  I look forward to continuing our partnership with the General Assembly to build upon the progress we’ve already made to make Medicaid work better for Ohioans.”

Ohio arguably has had the most circuitous path towards expanding Medicaid. It started way back in February, when Kasich, a Republican who opposes Obamacare, enlisted the help of health-law supporters to lay the groundwork for the expansion by showing widespread support for the Medicaid expansion.

That didn't quite work. Here's how Jim Siegel and Catherine Candinsky of the Columbus Post-Dispatch describe what happened next:

With the Republican-controlled legislature declining to approve the expansion, [Kasich]  instead sought the expansion on his own from the federal government and went to the seven-member Controlling Board for approval to spend the money.

The governor’s appointee on the panel, Randy Cole, and the two Democrats, Rep. Chris Redfern of Port Clinton and Sen. Tom Sawyer of Akron voted for the request along with a pair of Springfield Republicans: Sen. Chris Widener and Rep. Ross McGregor.

To help ensure the request got the needed votes, Speaker William G. Batchelder, R-Medina, this morning replaced Rep. Cliff Rosenberger of Clarksville with McGregor, a moderate, term-limited Republican who had said he would vote for the measure.

This might not be the end of the story: Some Ohio House Republicans are prepared to sue the Kasich administration for moving forward on the Medicaid expansion after they did not approve the program. But, at least for the moment, Ohio is the 26th state (and fourth controlled by a Repubilcan governor) to sign onto the Obamacare program.

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Lydia DePillis · October 21, 2013