Ohio Governor John Kasich speaks during the Ohio State of the State address Tuesday in the Fritsche Theater at Otterbein University in Westerville.
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Medicaid — especially the 2013 expansion of it under Obamacare rules — has been a political hot potato for too long in Ohio.
Gov. John Kasich’s decision to expand Medicaid in defiance of his fellow Republicans in the General Assembly will probably be his greatest achievement in his two terms in office.
This is especially true because Mr. Kasich didn’t have to fight just once for this measure, but multiple times as his own party sought strategies to undermine the program in the General Assembly.
Expanding Medicaid to cover families earning up to 38 percent above the federal poverty level, or about $34,000 a year for a family of four, has added roughly 725,000 people to Ohio’s Medicaid rolls. Lucas County was one of the biggest beneficiaries, with 13 percent of the county’s 19-to-64-year-olds gaining coverage through the expansion.
These are nearly three-quarters of a million Ohioans who now have access to regular health care for diagnosis and treatment, preventing more costly care for neglected conditions. These are people whose Medicaid coverage can pay for drug abuse treatment — especially crucial in a state that routinely leads the nation in opioid overdose deaths.
But now that Mr. Kasich is entering his final months in office, he is worried about what will happen to expanded Medicaid under the next governor. We should all be worried, especially with the opioid crisis raging in Ohio.
The issue has taken center stage in the governor’s race, particularly in the Republican primary contest. Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor has said she would roll back Mr. Kasich’s expansion, but Attorney General Mike DeWine has wiggled out of answering what he would do.
The four Democrats in the race all have said they would preserve the program, but, like Mr. Kasich, whichever candidate is ultimately successful would likely face a hostile General Assembly.
Any candidate who is serious about being governor of this state must commit to dropping the spiteful crusade to undermine Mr. Kasich’s Medicaid expansion. It is well past time to drop this grudge.
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