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Medicaid Expansion Rally Brings Thousands To Ohio Statehouse

Thursday, April 11, 2013 at 5:12 PM

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More thatn 2500 supporters of expanding Medicaid coverage rally on steps of Ohio Statehouse.  <i>photo by Karen Kasler</i>

An estimated twenty-five hundred Ohioans stood out in the pouring rain at the state’s capitol today to do one thing – send a message to lawmakers to expand Medicaid in the state budget. Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles reports this coalition consists of unlikely bedfellows.

The 2500 Ohioans from all parts of the state stood out in pouring rain to make their voices heard.  Myla Mitchell of Lima says her 18 and 20 year old children are not insured under her private health care plan…and she cannot afford the 400 dollars a month it would take to put them on her plan.  She says the Medicaid expansion would cover them.

Mitchell: “We need this.  There’s a lot of people who are working and they just can’t afford the coverage.”

Many people, like Mitchell, say they want the legislature to expand Medicaid in the state budget so they can get health care they don’t have.  But some business leaders say there’s another reason lawmakers should pass the Medicaid expansion plan…..jobs.  Matt Davis is with the Cincinnati U.S.A. Regional Chamber and he says businesses in his organization want Medicaid expansion.

Davis: “Not a day goes by that a member of mine doesn’t call to say we are looking for a way to address the skyrocketing cost of health care that we have in this country. They are worried about the future and whether rising health care costs will affect their ability to hire, raise wages or at a minimum, maintain their current staffing letters.  We believe at the Cincinnati chamber that expanded health care coverage in Ohio will alleviate some of the business community’s concerns and help us create a better economy in Ohio.”

Alex Fisher with the Columbus Partnership says businesses see expansion of Medicaid necessary in order to avoid added costs.

Fisher: “Expansion protects employers by reducing the risk of uncompensated care.  It keeps health care costs down and without expansion, a very single mention…we get a tax increase in the state of Ohio for every single business operating in this state.  Expansion is good for our community hospitals.  It helps alleviate the burden of costs of the uninsured.  It helps insure that we have predictability of care and that over the longterm, that our hospitals can understand the plans and strategies for insuring that all Ohioans have the best possible healthcare.”

But Conservative Activist Chris Littleton says the business leaders who are backing the Medicaid expansion need to think about a few things.

Littleton: “They are only going to get money by further indebting our kids, my kids. I have 3 kids.  They’re 8, 5 and 2.  And they are going to have to live with a larger debt burden?  Hundreds of billions of dollars more money over an extended course of time.  And once again, it”s also into a system that doesn’t have the greatest outcome to the patients themselves.”

And Littleton says the Medicaid expansion plan would not save money for the state either.  He says a few other states that have expanded Medicaid have not realized cost savings.

Littleton: “What we saw happen in those states is lots of employers started dropping coverage when Medicaid expanded so we saw a shift from private insurance where people were paying privately for it. then when they were eligible for government insurance, all we saw was people move from one place to another.  But the total number of uninsured people in the states, and the studies are out there--the Arizona legislature is where I pulled this information--it didn’t change and in some instances, the number of uninsured went up.”

But the people who are fighting to expand Medicaid say it is a good way to make sure all Ohioans can receive affordable health insurance.  For his part, Governor Kasich, a backer of the Medicaid expansion plan, is pleased with the efforts by those who are pushing for the program. 

His spokesman, Rob Nichols says quote ”Today’s outpouring of support, in the rain no less, is a testament to the fact that there’s such board support for this,” unquote.  Nichols says the Governor will continue to fight for Medicaid expansion. 

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Economy, Regional Economy/Business - News, Community/Human Interest, Government/Politics, Health

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