Ohio has accepted the Medicaid Expansion Provision of the Affordable Care Act and a 7 member Controlling Board that includes a Kasich appointee approved accepting Medicaid expansion money being offered by the Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Legislators in Ohio’s Senate and House placed a specific provision in the budget that prohibits accepting federal money for expansion of Medicaid in Ohio. This didn’t sit well with either Governor Kasich or aligned health care lobbyists. The Governor decided to bypass the will of the voters and their representatives, using an obscure board to start the federal money flowing into the state.
The Controlling Board was never intended for decisions on major legislative initiatives like Medicaid, but the Governor saw this as a viable, if contentious way of going around the legislature and avoiding a losing battle in the legislature. This is wrong on numerous levels. The board’s decisions are specifically meant to express the intent of the legislature, not vote in a manner that runs in opposition. In addition, Ohio House speaker Bill Batchelder, switched out two House members that served on the Controlling Board only one day prior to the vote. One of the new appointees voted “for” and one voted “against” the measure to accept HHS money for expansion. The final 5 -2 vote shows contempt for the legislative process and sets a precedent that should enrage every Ohio voter, especially the two-thirds of voters that approved the Ohio Health Care Freedom Amendment.
Six Republican Lawmakers along with the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law filed suit to halt Medicaid expansion and asks the Ohio Supreme Court to decide if the money can be accepted by Ohio. The Governor’s office claims, the budget already approved expansion and the argument is only over the release of federal funding.
Conservative Ohioans opposing Medicaid expansion and other provisions of Obamacare find Governor Kasich’s support both troubling and confusing. His actions are contrary to the campaign rhetoric of a warrior against big government. The Governor makes reference to his Christian faith as a motivation for expanding Medicaid to cover the uninsured. Joe Rago of the WSJ comments on the Governor’s motivation, “Not to be sacrilegious, but the Republican used to know better. Now Mr. Kasich seems to view signing up for this part of ObamaCare as an act of Christian charity and has literally all but claimed that God told him to do so.” It’s been shown in several studies that those on Medicaid have worse health outcomes than people with no health insurance. So, charity aside, adding hundreds of thousands to this program without major reforms is providing Ohioans with a false sense of health security. It’s also worth noting that an estimated 52,000 new primary care physicians will be needed to meet the needs of all the new enrollees on Medicaid/Obamacare – supply will simply not catch up with increased demand for health providers, especially since 6 in 10 doctors, according to a Deloitte study will consider leaving medicine in the next three years.
Limited government liberty groups claim a terrible precedent is set in bypassing legislators that represent the will of Ohio’s citizens. The Governor is running for reelection in 2014 and believes extending health coverage to 275,000 or more uninsured will eventually prove popular with Ohioans. This is a risky gambit as thousands of conservative voters stayed home in Ohio on Election Day 2012, paving the way to President Obama’s victory in Ohio. Will liberty group leaders support Governor Kasich’s reelection campaign in 2014? Will Ohio voters concerned with the growth of government and implementation of Obamacare go to the polls and vote for John Kasich? To quote the WSJ’s Rago again, “Ohio is now the 25th state to buckle under pressure from Washington and the hospital lobby to join new Medicaid. His behavior doesn’t speak well for Mr. Kasich’s governing judgement as he prepares to run for a higher office in 2016, and we don’t mean the afterlife. Republicans get a vote before St. Peter does.”
Ohio may be the Heart of it All, but Medicaid’s poor health outcomes and future costs to Ohio taxpayers brings a list of adjectives to mind – compassion is definitely not on that list.