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Advocates on Both Sides of Medicaid Expansion Expect Fight to Go On

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GOP lawmakers in the finance committee of the Ohio House abandoned the proposed expansion of the Medicaid program in their two-year budget proposal -- something that Republican Gov. John Kasich had included in his budget. As ideastream's Nick Castele reports, supporters of the expansion say they'll continue to fight for it, while opponents are keeping the pressure on legislators to resist.

Thursday, April 11, 2013 at 6:30 am

The Medicaid expansion would bring billions of dollars into the state and extend health coverage to hundreds of thousands of uninsured Ohioans. Advocates of the expansion in Northeast Ohio have been working for months to win legislative support in Columbus.

Oliver Henkel, a lobbyist with the Cleveland Clinic, accuses lawmakers who turned against the expansion of giving in to political pressure.

HENKEL: "And frankly, this issue is of such great importance to the residents of the state of Ohio, that for any legislator to decide to vote for or against it on purely political terms is doing an injustice to the people of this state."

Henkel says he's hoping the House resurrects the expansion before it takes a final vote on the bill. In the meantime, he says, he'll be working to win support in the Senate.

Conservatives who oppose the expansion say it just enables more government spending. And they acknowledge the fight isn't over yet. Ted Stevenot, who heads the Ohio Liberty Coalition, says he's encouraged by the House budget.

STEVENOT: "We're cautiously optimistic. We think this is a good sign. However, we are going to remain very concerned. And we will continue to watch the developments. And if we need to re-engage or reassert ourselves in a different way, we will do so."

Stevenot says that includes possibly encouraging primary challengers against Republicans who support the expansion.