While Republicans on Capitol Hill were trying to defend a bill that simultaneously failed to replace Obamacare and took health care away from millions to pay for tax cuts for the rich, Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) was having none of it.
“I have deep concerns with details in the U.S. Senate’s plan to fix America’s health care system and the resources needed to help our most vulnerable, including those who are dealing with drug addiction, mental illness and chronic health problems and have nowhere else to turn,” he said in a Twitter message.
To the chagrin of Obamacare critics on the right, Kasich has expanded Medicaid in his state, thereby covering approximately 700,000 more people. More than 200,000 more gained coverage through the exchanges. Ohio thereby reduced its non-elderly adult uninsured population from 16 percent to 9 percent.
Kasich warned lawmakers, “Sustainable solutions to the many complex problems facing our health care system will never be solved with a one-party approach that’s developed behind closed doors, without public discussion and input.” He then urged senators “to step back and take a good, hard look at this important issue and to reach across the aisle in working toward solutions.”
It is not clear what effect, if any, that will have on senators, specifically Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), but Kasich was one of the few Republicans talking about improving coverage and looking out for the most vulnerable. In March he argued, “Don’t kill Medicaid expansion. And you’ve got to fix the exchange, but you have to have an ability to subsidize people at lower income levels.” He continued, “Here’s what we’re talking about. If you’re drug addicted, if you’re mentally ill, you have to consistently see the doctor. From what I see in this House bill, the resources are not there.” That would be even more true of the Senate bill which over time makes deeper cuts to Medicaid.
In the past he’s ridiculed the GOP approach on Capitol Hill. “And we’re going to fix Obamacare by repealing some of the tax increases on some of the richest people in the country and then have less resources to help people with mental illness and drug addiction? It’s foolhardy. It’s nonsense. I don’t buy it.” Well, at least one Republican has figured this out.
Kasich is not a defender of Obamacare or the status quo. He forthrightly describes the problems with exchanges, many of which have one or no insurers. But he’s not in this to extract money from the system for tax cuts for the rich. He is a lonely figure right now in the GOP, the rare individual looking to reform and improve the system without hurting the most vulnerable. He deserves credit for that.
For all that, we can say, well done, Governor Kasich.