Ohio's Kasich approves budget, Medicaid expansion effort still alive

Ohio Gov. John Kasich
Ohio Gov. John Kasich

When Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed Ohio’s new $62 billion, two-year state budget late Sunday, he also made 22 line-item vetoes. Among those measures, he scratched was a measure that prohibited the expansion of Medicaid.

The veto allows Kasich and his staff to prepare for expansion, according to Greg Moody, director of the Ohio’s Office of Health Transformation. However, they will need a bill to pass before they can spend the money.
If the program launches, at least 275,000 Ohioans will qualify to become newly enrolled in the federal and state insurance program for the poor.

Moody, who spoke with ideastream’s Sarah Jane Tribble, said the state needs about six months to ready computer systems for enrolling and paying for the care of those newly eligible for Medicaid. The federal government will begin reimbursing 100 percent of the cost of new enrollees on Jan. 1, 2014.

Ohio’s Republicans have fought expansion since February when Kasich put it his proposed budget. But on Friday, when the lawmakers presented the budget to the governor, a tone had shifted.

Ohio House Speaker William Batchelder said the politicians were “down the road much farther than we are prepared to discuss,” on Medicaid.

A few minutes later, according to ideastream’s Karen Kasler, the speaker was more specific, saying, “Medicaid in my opinion will come, and it will come this year. I have no doubt about that.”

What could have shifted the Republican party’s stance against expansion? The party has been against increasing the federal deficit and has talked of decreasing the use of Medicaid, which now serves 2.3 million Ohioans.

One bipartisan bill presented June 13 may hold some answers. The bill, which is co-sponsored by Senators Dave Burke, a Marysville Republican, and Capri Cafaro, a Hubbard Democrat, calls for the establishment of firm spending targets and more accountability of how members get their health care.

On Sunday night, Moody said lawmakers had asked his team to be available for technical assistance over the summer.

“Which we are happy to do,” he said, adding that the request indicates lawmakers would be meeting over the summer and working toward expansion,” he said. Moody said he expected a bill with expansion by Labor Day “at the latest.”

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