Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich moved quickly to deny a report that quoted him saying repeal of the Affordable Care Act was "not gonna happen," saying that he had been talking instead solely about the health law's expansion of Medicaid, which he has opted to do in his state. Mr. Kasich, a potential 2016 GOP presidential candidate, said his remarks had been misconstrued in a report by the Associated Press that quickly caught the attention of political observers when it appeared Monday afternoon.
We talked earlier about Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R), who was quite candid in recent comments about the politics of health care. In fairness to the governor, it's only fair to note the degree to which he's scrambled since.
To briefly recap, Kasich, who's already run one failed presidential campaign and is rumored to be interested in a 2016 race, told the AP that repealing the Affordable Care Act is "not gonna happen." The Ohio Republican added, "The opposition to it was really either political or ideological. I don't think that holds water against real flesh and blood, and real improvements in people's lives."
The ensuing chatter about his comments has left the governor scrambling, reaching out to news organizations to clarify.
As part of the pushback, Kasich told Politico, for example, "I have favored expanding Medicaid, but I don't really see expanding Medicaid as really connected to Obamacare."
This is a bad argument. To say that one opposes a law, except for one of the law's most important provisions, is inherently problematic. The simple truth is, Medicaid expansion wouldn't exist without the Affordable Care Act -- one is literally part of the other. To repeal "Obamacare" would mean the repeal of Medicaid expansion, too, which according to the Ohio governor, is making "real improvements in people's lives."
It's left Kasich in a bizarre position: he's fully committed to repealing the entirety of the successful health care reform initiative, except for the giant part of the law, which he happens to like.
The governor is trying to find some wiggle room, telling one reporter, "You repeal Obamacare, you don't repeal Medicaid." That's true; Medicaid would still exist, even if Republicans destroyed the ACA system and took health care benefits away from millions of families.
But as Kasich knows, we're not talking about whether or not Medicaid exists; we're talking about whether expansion of the Medicaid program under the ACA would exist. He's seems to be trying to play a little rhetorical game, hoping people won't notice, but he's not playing the game very well.
The Ohio governor added that he also wants to keep protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions, which makes his posture that much more ridiculous.
Indeed, the entire Republican stance has devolved into farce: they're absolutely disgusted with the failure of Obamacare and its disastrous provisions, which must be repealed to rescue our nation ... except Medicaid expansion, which is a good idea. And the protections for those with pre-existing conditions. And the coverage for adults until they turn 26. And the tax breaks for small businesses. And the benefits for seniors on prescription medication. And the cost-savings. And the deficit reduction. And the improved efficiency throughout the system. And the improved Medicare finances. And on and on.
Kasich added, in an apparent threat to the health security of millions of American households, "If the House and the Senate [are Republican-controlled] and we have a Republican president, Obamacare will be repealed flat out. Flat out. And it will be replaced."
That should be a little terrifying to those whose access to affordable medical care is on the line -- Kasich is effectively promising more uninsured Americans, worse insurance, less coverage, higher taxes, and a higher deficit if Republicans control the levers of power -- and of course Americans have been waiting for several years for GOP leaders to tell us what they'd replace the U.S. health care system with.
What we're left with is a prominent Republican governor and likely presidential hopeful who's dug a hole for himself and climbed in. Kasich wants to destroy the health care system, which would do real damage to millions of people, except for the parts he likes. Simultaneously, the GOP governor seems to believe other Republican governors who've balked at Medicaid expansion have made a horrible mistake for partisan and ideological reasons.
As national platforms go, it seems Kasich's approach to health care needs some fine tuning.
Update: Four months later, the governor received the correction from the AP he asked for.