Politics

Kasich pushes Medicaid expansion through stacked board

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Ohio became the latest state to approve an Obamacare Medicaid expansion Monday night after Republican Gov. John Kasich pushed the proposal through a state Controlling Board.

Kasich swung the state Controlling Board’s vote Monday morning with unlikely help from Ohio Speaker of the House Bill Batchelder, who helped to secure a 5-2 vote in favor of the proposal Monday afternoon.

The Ohio legislature originally inserted a line into a budget bill prohibiting the expansion, but the governor vetoed the line and chose to ultimately bypass the legislature Monday with board approval instead.

Though Batchelder opposed the Medicaid expansion along with most Republicans in the legislature, he aided Kasich’s efforts by replacing two members of the Controlling Board just before the vote. Batchedler swung the vote by switching out two board members that were planning to vote against expansion. One of the new members supported expansion and one voted against it.

The speaker signed a letter just last week calling the attempt to bypass the legislature with the Controlling Board “illegal.”

Batchelder spokesman Mike Dittoe announced that though the speaker disapproves of the expansion, he was powerless to stop it. Batchelder “does not believe the Controlling Board should have this authority but, in the end, they do,” Dittoe said.

Conservative groups have already hit back against Kasich’s move and Batchelder’s involvement.

Tarren Bragdon of the Foundation for Government Accountability, which has been fighting against the Medicaid expansion nationwide, told The Daily Caller News Foundation that Kasich is “taking a page out of the Obama, Reid and Pelosi style of government.”

“The speaker and the governor are manipulating Ohio’s governmental process, just like they did in Washington,” Bragdon told TheDCNF. “Seeing this about face by the governor and the speaker because they can’t face the allure of federal funds, and unfortunately its the taxpayers that are going to face the consequences.”

The president of the tea party group Ohio Citizens PAC. Tom Zawistowski, called the Controlling Board move a “bastardization of the political process” by a “desperate governor.”

Kasich has defended the expansion by saying he’s just “following Ronald Reagan’s lead,” but former Reagan administration official Ed Meese hit back, writing at National Review that Reagan would not approve of the blanket “one-size-fits-all policy.”

“This is really a debate about expanding Medicaid coverage for the first time ever to nonworking people who have no disabilities and no children,” Bragdon told TheDCNF.

Kasich, however, made a statement following the vote, arguing that “together with the General Assembly we’ve improved both the quality of care from Medicaid and its value for taxpayers.”

In light of the Ohio legislature’s opposition to the expansion, they may not take kindly to the governor’s suggestion that their intent was considered. Some have already sworn to continue to fight the expansion, despite the board’s approval.

Ohio Rep. Matt Lynch said Sunday that House members will sue the governor for “assuming authority he doesn’t have under the Constitution” if he goes through with the expansion. “In the end,” Lynch said Sunday, “we are prepared to go to the Supreme Court.”

The approved expansion includes $2.5 billion in Medicaid spending by 2015. Kasich said the widened rules would cover roughly 275,000 residents.

Ohio is the 25th state to approve the Medicaid boost. The state’s increasing share of the cost of the Medicaid expansion lead some states to turn down the federal dollars. The federal government will foot the entire bill until 2016 and 90 percent of the costs until 2020.

Though Republican opposition in the Ohio legislature has been heated, Ohio hospitals are in favor of the expansion and have been working toward alternative options to pass the expansion had Kasich’s board push not been successful.

Kasich has attempted to separate his support for a Medicaid expansion from his public opposition to Obamacare itself. The number of patients signing up for private insurance through Obamacare exchanges has already been dwarfed by the tens of thousands that have signed up for the lower cost Medicaid services instead.

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