Ohio GOP imperils Medicaid expansion


Just two months ago, Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) joined the growing group of Republican governors embracing Medicaid expansion as part of the Affordable Care Act. “I, as all of you know, am not a supporter of Obamacare,” Kasich explained at a press conference. “But I think this makes great sense for the state of Ohio.”

The governor’s Republican allies in the state legislature apparently don’t care what he thinks: they moved this week to reject Kasich’s policy, block Medicaid expansion, and deny benefits to hundreds of thousands of low-income Ohioans.

Ohio Capital Blog reported yesterday that about 2,500 people rallied at the state Capitol yesterday, turning out in the rain, urging state lawmakers to reconsider. One of them was Bobbi Douglas, director of an Ohio facility that focuses on substance abuse treatment, education, and prevention.

It’s worth emphasizing that this is not strictly a partisan or ideological issue.

“It might take a couple days. It might take a week or two. It might take a month, but never confuse right and left in politics with right and wrong in life,” said former state Sen. Bob Spada who serves as president of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Ohio. […]

The plan has sweeping support from the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, the Ohio Hospital Association, Ohio Right to Life, major insurers and many groups serving the poor. Those who would gain coverage under the expansion and their supporters at today’s rally urged lawmakers to “put people above politics.”

Opponents “don’t understand the level of desperation for those who have to go without health coverage,” said Mary Hall, a New Albany mother of three children with developmental disabilities.

It’s also worth noting that while the crowd was urging state Republican lawmakers to do the right thing, Ohio’s Republican governor cheered them on. A Kasich spokesperson told the Columbus Dispatch, “Today’s outpouring of support, in the rain no less, is testament to the fact that there’s such broad support for this. It needs to happen if Ohio’s recovery is going to continue and the governor will keep fighting for it.”

This is part of a discouraging pattern.

As we discussed a month ago, Republican governors accepting reality and arithmetic on Medicaid expansion was a breakthrough, but it wasn’t the final call. While legislators traditionally follow their own party’s governor, in many cases, we’re seeing state GOP lawmakers – in Florida, Arizona, Ohio, and elsewhere – go their own way, regardless of the consequences.

In each instance, the fight is not yet over, which is why we’re seeing rallies like the one in Columbus, Ohio, yesterday.

On a related note, let’s also not forget that while state GOP lawmakers are trying to block expanded health care access for struggling families, they’re also going after Planned Parenthood (via Laura Clawson).

[Ohio] House leaders also used their overhauled bill to resurrect a proposal that would effectively strip federal dollars from Planned Parenthood and other stand-alone family-planning clinics. The proposal was shelved late last year by the Ohio Senate.

The proposal would reprioritize allocations of federal family-planning dollars. Instead of using the current competitive grant process, priority would be given to public health departments and federally qualified health centers before nonpublic family planning centers such as the 32 operated in Ohio by Planned Parenthood. The federal funds cannot be used for abortions. Under the previous proposal, Planned Parenthood would have lost an estimated $2 million.