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Kasich Medicaid Expansion Sets Up Debate

Ohio Statehouse News Bureau

As part of Ohio Governor John Kasich’s budget plan released Monday, the republican announced that he’ll push for expanding Ohio Medicaid services under the federal health care law. 

The governor’s plan to expand the Medicaid program has some conservative leaning groups concerned.  Opposition to the plan is largely centered on increased administrative costs for the state.  And some say Medicaid funding is already unsustainable, so why expand the program?  Seth Morgan is policy director of Americans for Prosperity – Ohio. 

Morgan says "We [Ohio] already have an access problem for those Medicaid patients, and to simply just throw, 275,000 or 365,000, depending on how you do the math more people onto that program, we think is just a big mistake."

Under Kasich’s plan, the federal government would pay all but the administrative costs of Ohio’s Medicaid expansion for the first three years, Except those administration costs, then, gradually phase that down to 90 percent.  Kasich’s proposal also calls for an automatic "opt-out" trigger so if the federal government doesn't pick up its share of the costs, the program shuts down and Ohio taxpayers wouldn't be stuck with the bill.

Greg Lawson, is the Statehouse Liaison and Policy Analyst at the Buckeye Institute.  He says once government programs are expanded, they rarely shrink back down.  They usually ends up as a call for higher taxes to keep the programs funded, and He contends the expansion is still a fundamental change to government’s purpose.

Lawson says the Medicaid expansion "is part of the Affordable Care Act.  This is part of Obamacare, and expanding it certainly is a decision that changes the very nature of the program.  By expanding it to as many people as is going to be expanded to, including many healthy adults; I mean Medicaid in Ohio deals with certain populations and is intended to be a safety net program."  

The analyst also asserts that, "one could make a pretty plausible argument that this dramatically expands that and changes it from a safety net into something far broader than a net, and I think that’s a question that gets to the point of how what kind of state we want to have, and how we want to deal with things.  So, it’s really an awful lot of questions that need to be asked about this."

Last summer Gov. Kasich, called the federal healthcare overhaul a "massive new tax on the middle class."  He’s now trying to separate that issue from the Medicaid expansion and persuade Republican state lawmakers to back a plan they campaigned against.