Kasich defends controversial decision to expand Medicaid

    Governor Kasich speaking on his decision to expand Medicaid in Ohio. August 21, 2018. (WSYX/WTTE)

    The Kasich Administration released a report Tuesday defending the governor's decision to expand Medicaid as part of Obamacare. The report cited a survey of Medicaid patients who were able to get health insurance, get jobs or take care of their families because of the medical coverage provided by the program.

    Governor Kasich was one of the few Republican governors who expanded Medicaid. State officials said nearly 1.2. million Ohioans had received health coverage since 2013.

    "This is about putting ourselves in somebody else's shoes," Kasich said. "Think about what your life would be like if you didn't know you could get any health care?"

    State officials said 692,000 Ohioans were enrolled in the Medicaid expansion in 2018.

    One of the biggest concerns has been the cost of the program. Rea Hederman, the vice president of policy at the conservative Buckeye Institute, said the number of people enrolled in the program has been nearly double the original estimates despite decreasing unemployment levels.

    "Medicaid expansion could encourage people to work less or not work nearly as much," Hederman said. "That's a problem because we know work means people can get raises, earn a better life in the future."

    Kasich said the costs were manageable as long as lawmakers in Washington didn't mess with it.

    “It is affordable now," Kasich said. "I want to be clear. If the federal government plays games and tries to put us in a perilous fiscal position, we will have to change this position on Medicaid expansion. You think the way to solve your costs is just to cut people off? You think that's going to work? What are you kidding? Why don't you reform it? Why don't you fix it? Why don't you have the guts to do the things that need to be done to reform it?"

    Kasich said the next governor should keep this policy going. State officials point to the Medicaid expansion as one of the keys to fighting the ongoing opioid epidemic.

    "We've had a lot more people lifted, a lot more people getting work and a lot more people getting care that they need," he said.

    Both Democratic gubernatorial candidate Rich Cordray and his Republican opponent Mike DeWine have said they plan to keep the Medicaid expansion. DeWine announced earlier this summer he wanted to add work requirements to it.

    Cordray said in a statement, "Governor Kasich’s Medicaid expansion plays a crucial role in lowering health care costs for middle class, and I’ll stand up against any attempt to roll it back and raise insurance premiums for Ohioans.

    “My opponent Mike DeWine has opposed the Medicaid expansion from day one, just like he opposed protections for the 4.8 million Ohioans with pre-existing conditions. His priority has always been doing the bidding of the big drug and health insurance companies that have bankrolled his campaign — not doing what’s best for Ohio.

    “My focus as governor will be on keeping health care costs down for the middle class, and using the Medicaid expansion as a powerful tool to combat the opioid epidemic, protect our rural hospitals, and keep Ohioans healthy.”

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