Gov. John Kasich used his State of the State Address, Feb. 19, to press members of the Ohio General Assembly to support his controversial decision to expand Medicaid.
Saying it is the right and compassionate thing to do, he also told state lawmakers that we “should not shoot ourselves in the foot and send our tax dollars to another state to be spent.”
The Governor went on to say that Ohio has an unprecedented opportunity to bring $13 billion of Ohio’s tax dollars back to Ohio to help solve health problems. He touted efforts by his administration to transform healthcare within the state by creating the Office of Health Transformation and implementing innovative programs to make heathcare more efficient.
Kasich’s two-year budget proposes to extend Medicaid coverage to adults making $15,415 or less per year (138 percent of poverty). Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government will pay 100 percent of this cost for three years, decreasing to 90 percent in 2020 and beyond. The proposal also includes a safety value that will automatically reverse the expansion, if the federal government changes its commitment to the states.
“This money can provide health coverage for the poor, a great number of them who are working poor individuals who make less than $15,415,” he said. “They can’t afford health care. What are we going to do, leave them out in the street, walk away from them when we have a chance to help them?
He said that health care programs need to be designed to help individuals get primary care in physicians offices. He said using hospital emergency rooms for primary care is “not efficient.”
“The federal government’s going to phase this out,” he said. “You know what this is going to do to rural hospitals? Do you know what this is going to do to urban hospitals if we turn this [funding] down?”
Kasich told lawmakers he is not a supporter of ObamaCare and that he rejected establishing a state-run health insurance exchange. He said federal regulations didn’t give the state the necessary flexibility to run the exchange, where people can buy insurance if their employers don't offer coverage. Under the ACA, states are given the option of operating their own exchanges, developing a hybrid approach or opting for a federally run exchange.
“I don’t believe in the individual mandate. I don’t like a lot of the programs that are going to drive insurance rates up.”
On the other hand, he said Medicaid benefits will help Ohio on many levels and have a positive impact on those who are mentally ill or suffer from addictions. He called the Medicaid expansion, “a chance to rebuild the safety net.”
The expansion would extend medical coverage to about 275,000 new Medicaid enrollees. The state will see a net gain of $235 million over the two-year budget if it accepts federal dollars to pay for the program growth.