Ohio Governor John Kasich announced today that he has included Medicaid expansion in his proposed two-year state budget. "We are going to extend Medicaid for the working poor, and for those who are jobless and trying to find work," he said in his Ohio's Jobs Budget 2.0 presentation at the Riffe Center.
"Some of the poorest Ohioans get their primary care in an emergency room," Kasich said. "That is not the best way to get people primary care. Not only is it not good for them, because it doesn't allow them to get healthy, but it drives up the cost of everybody's health insurance. I don't think that is a sustainable way to do business here in the state of Ohio when it comes to health care."
According to a non-partisan report released in January, Medicaid expansion would enable nearly 500,000 Ohioans to gain access to medical coverage in 2014, reduce uncompensated care for hospitals, and save the state $1.4 billion through 2022.
"There will come a time when the federal government will no longer reimburse hospitals for this uncompensated care," Kasich said. "If we were to reject extending Medicaid, I believe that we would create financial chaos, particularly across our rural health care delivery systems, because they would no longer be able to get reimbursed for the care that they provide."
Medicaid expansion would also help to restore the safety net for the mentally ill and addicted, Kasich said.
The Central Ohio Medicaid Expansion Coalition (CO-MEC), an alliance of health care professionals and faith leaders, met with Ohio legislators in January to urge them to support Medicaid expansion if Governor Kasich included it in his budget proposal.
"By including Medicaid expansion in the state budget, Governor Kasich has conducted a very faithful move because so many more people will be given the opportunity to be well, given the chance to be whole and healed," said Reverend Timothy Ahrens, CO-MEC chair and Senior Minister at First Congregational Church.
"As this legislation goes through the budget process, we are hopeful that our elected officials in the Statehouse will also support Medicaid expansion," Ahrens said.
Expanding Medicaid eligibility to 138 percent of the poverty level would provide medical coverage for an individual making up to $8 per hour, or for a person supporting a family of three making up to $13.73 per hour.
"This is great news for the many Ohioans who are earning minimum wage and can't afford to pay for health care," said Cathy Levine, Executive Director of UHCAN Ohio. "These are hard-working people who are preparing our food, caring for our children and our elderly, doing all kinds of jobs that need to be done. Our Governor knows that they deserve to be healthy."