Where Ohioans stand on Medicaid expansion in state

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — A look at where Ohio's political leaders, health industry organizations and others stand on expanding Medicaid benefits. Gov. John Kasich is to announce Feb. 4 whether he'll push for expansion.

KASICH: The governor has shown strong opposition to President Barack Obama's health care overhaul — and one of its key elements is expanding Medicaid. Last summer, he called the law a massive new tax on the middle class and said he hoped it would be repealed. But now he's faced with whether to expand health coverage for an estimated half-million Ohioans and take the federal money that goes with it. One recent study suggested expansion could net the state $1.4 billion over the next decade and that an expanded Medicaid program would pay for itself. The governor and his administration leaders have not hinted which way they are leaning. Some fellow Republicans in the state already have made it clear they don't like the idea. But Kasich said last week that "political considerations are at a minimum" as he weighs his decision.

LEGISLATIVE LEADERS: Republicans control both the House and Senate in Ohio and many don't like Obama's health care law and made that clear in the most recent elections, campaigning against the law. Because the state's Legislature will ultimately get to vote on expanding Medicaid if Kasich decides he wants it, the governor will need to persuade some to change their positions. GOP House Speaker William Batchelder said his fellow Republicans have concerns about the expense of enlarging Medicaid. He also acknowledged that there are philosophical questions over the law itself, which mandates almost everyone to obtain insurance.

HEALTH CARE INDUSTRY: Organizations that represent a large number of Ohio's doctors, hospitals and health providers back the idea of expanding Medicaid, but that hasn't always been the case. The Ohio State Medical Association had been on the opposite side earlier this year, but its president announced in January it was reversing its opinion, saying that widening Medicaid would improve the health of society with no cost to the state. The Ohio Hospital Association and Ohio Association of Community Health Centers also are in support, saying that increasing preventive care will reduce the need for more expensive treatments and emergency room visits down the road.

CONSERVATIVE GROUPS: The most vocal opponents of Medicaid expansion are ones concerned about adding to the national debt. They warn that the costs to Ohio will be greater than predicted and that the federal government will shift a bigger share of Medicaid costs to states in the coming years. In Ohio, the libertarian-leaning 1851 Center for Constitutional Law along with the conservative Ohio Liberty Coalition and the Buckeye Institute all have voiced concern. Tea party groups oppose the idea, but the opposition is less organized than those pushing for broadening Medicaid.

BUSINESS GROUPS: The powerful Ohio Chamber of Commerce hasn't taken sides on Medicaid expansion in the state and is gauging the opinions of the business owners it represents. Local chamber organizations in Columbus and Cincinnati, though, have endorsed the move, saying that providing additional Medicaid coverage will cut down on costs by making sure people get treatment early before making more expensive emergency room visits.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

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