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OUR VIEW: Kasich digs in on Medicaid expansion in Ohio

Published: July 21, 2013 12:00 AM

Gov. John Kasich isn't prepared to cut his losses and admit defeat on his bid to expand Medicaid in Ohio.

Kasich believes Ohioans will benefit from expanded Medicaid eligibility. He says the state stands to save millions in tax dollars, those who will gain coverage will be healthier and, as he has stressed repeatedly, making sure that those in need have access to decent health care is simply the right thing to do.

This element of his legislative agenda was rebuffed soundly by fellow Republicans in control of the Ohio Legislature but that doesn't seem to have deterred Kasich from continuing to pursue this issue. He's to be commended for that.

"We are going to get this done," he told a rally for Medicaid at the Statehouse July 9, urging supporters of expanded coverage to be "persistent and pleasant" in lobbying for it.

Kasich included the Medicaid expansion in his biennial budget proposal, but Republican lawmakers removed the language from the final bill. GOP hardliners, who tied to measure to "Obamacare," wanted no part of a perceived endorsement of the president's reforms.

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Kasich's proposal would increase Medicaid coverage for Ohioans earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level (about $15,000 per individual or $32,000 for a family of four), insuring 275,000-plus low-income residents, many working full time but not earning enough to pay for insurance. The plan calls for the state to leverage billions in federal dollars that will become available through the Affordable Care Act, saving the state more than $400 million in general revenue funds.

Health care is in transition as the reforms outlined in the Affordable Care Act are gradually implemented. Extending coverage to those who cannot afford insurance under the current system is a key element, and enacting the Medicaid plan in Ohio would do a great deal toward that end.

Republican leaders of the Ohio House and Senate have said they plan to continue discussions on the issue over the summer and act on a reform package before the end of the year. Democrats at the Statehouse are generally supportive of the Medicaid expansion.

The health of thousands of Ohioans is at stake in this proposal. Governor Kasich, to his credit, refuses to wave the white flag, even in the face of opposition from his own party. We applaud him for refusing to let this issue simply go away.

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