Ohio’s GOP Governor On The Verge Of Adopting Obamacare

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October 11, 2013 10:10 a.m.

Ohio appears on the verge of adopting Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion in the coming weeks, after the Obama administration approved an application from Republican Gov. John Kasich’s administration to expand the program.

The federal Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services sent a letter Thursday to Ohio Medicaid Director John McCarthy, obtained by TPM, approving his request to increase Medicaid eligibility to 133 percent of the federal poverty level, as the Affordable Care Act prescribes.

Kasich would add his name to the growing list of Republican governors — Michigan’s Rick Snyder, Arizona’s Jan Brewer and New Jersey’s Chris Christie among them — who have bucked their national party leaders and adopted a key provision of Obamacare. And he’s going to go around a skeptical legislature to do it.

The Columbus Dispatch reported Friday that Kasich (R) would request permission to spend the incoming federal funding for the expansion from a seven-member legislative spending oversight panel rather than the state legislature. Kasich’s office had confirmed to TPM Wednesday that seeking approval from the panel, instead of the legislature, was an option for the governor.

It’s effectively a unilateral expansion of Medicaid by Kasich’s administration. He had sought the legislature’s approval earlier in the year, but had been stymied by conservative lawmakers in the state House. The director of the governor’s Office of Health Transformation told the Dispatch Friday that the move was necessary as Jan. 1 — the date that the expansion is supposed to take effect — approached.

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“The issue really is, at a moment in time, what is the most direct way to accomplish what we have identified as a priority for quite a while,” Greg Moody, director of the Governor’s Office of Health Transformation, said. “To be able to get this done by Jan. 1, we are at the point where we do need to act now.”

Up to 275,000 additional Ohioans will be covered by Medicaid through the expansion. The state will receive a little more than $1 billion in federal funding in 2014 to pay for it.

The seven-member panel is comprised of a chairman appointed by Kasich, four Republican lawmakers and two Democrats, according to the Dispatch. He needs four votes to approve the spending. He’s expected to make his request on Oct. 21.

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