Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) is one of several Republican governors eager to expand Medicaid in his state, even though it means implementing the Affordable Care Act, though it hasn’t been easy. The Republican governor has faced unyielding opposition to the idea from state lawmakers in his own party, who are convinced it’s important to combat “Obamacare,” even when that doesn’t make sense.
Kasich tried nearly everything he could think, up to and including asking his party to consider what Reagan would do. Yesterday, however, the governor played the only card he had left: he circumvented the state legislature altogether and approved Medicaid expansion on his own.
The breakthrough came Monday afternoon, when the Ohio legislature’s seven-member “controlling board” voted to let Kasich spend the $2.5 billion the federal government has approved for his expansion plan. […]Ohio’s decision ends a nine-month standoff between Kasich and the right far-right flank of his party, and it provides welcome solace to a White House embarrassed by the botched debut of its new online insurance exchanges.
There are now 26 states that have embraced Medicaid expansion – a new total that officially crosses the “more than half the nation” threshold.
Estimates vary slightly, but Kasich’s decision will bring health care coverage to as many as 330,000 low-income Ohioans, who would otherwise be forced to go without.
It’s easy to get lost in the numbers, so let’s pause to appreciate the scope of this single decision in a single state. Whenever the number of Americans without health insurance improves, it’s clearly a positive development, but in this case, a governor was able to bring coverage to a third of a million people in one afternoon.
It’s the kind of decision that will boost Ohio’s economy and fiscal outlook, but more importantly, it’s also likely to save lives.
There is, however, one notable catch: Sarah Kliff reported that some GOP state lawmakers “are prepared to sue the Kasich administration for moving forward on the Medicaid expansion after they did not approve the program.” Indeed, just last week, when it became clear the governor might make an end run around the state legislature, 39 state House Republicans filed a protest letter to condemn the gambit.
Depending on how things go in the courts, the litigation may upend, or at least delay, the progress.
That said, at least for now, yesterday’s news is a breakthrough.