Thursday, August 29, 2013 at 5:55 AM
The fight over Medicaid expansion shows no sign of ending soon. Conservatives who oppose the federal affordable health care plan are touring the state, try to rally their troops. And as Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles reports, those who support Medicaid expansion continue to try to urge lawmakers in Ohio to pass it.
A hotel on Columbus’ north side serves as ground zero for conservatives who oppose the new federal health care program. Outside, about 100 protestors line the area surrounding the parking lot, holding signs. Inside, Heritage speakers are trying to rally a crowd of more than 600 people to urge their elected representatives to defund Obamacare.
One person leads the crowd in a chant, reminiscent of one of President Obama’s campaign slogans. The leader calls out “can we restore our nation to the founding principles that made it great?”
And the crowd replies, “Yes we can!”
The President of the Heritage Foundation, Former U.S. Senator Jim DeMint, told the crowd President Obama’s health care program won’t work.
“It’s another promise he can’t keep,” DeMint says. “The government cannot run our health care system. This is a cash for clunkers health care plan that he’s given us.”
And Demint says it’s important for conservative voters to rally around lawmakers who are opposing Obamacare. “You know what they are saying. They are saying, DeMint, Heritage, this is risky. If we take on the president, he’s a smooth talker. He’s going to win over the American people. If we try to do this now, we could lose the next election. But since when do Americans not fight for what is right because they are afraid they are going to lose?”
But hours later, at the Ohio Statehouse, backers of Medicaid expansion that’s part of the affordable health care act, are trying to send another message. Former Ohio State University running back Maurice Clarett is on hand to tell the crowd he’s been suffering from mental illness.
“My mental health issues I believe led to some of the addictive behavior I had….just not being able to support the chemical imbalance in my brain, not knowing how to manage my life and my life just being in chaos.”
Clarett says he’s been helped through medication and treatment…..but he fears a lot of people who suffer from illnesses like his are not getting help because they can’t afford it. Kerry Johnson of Lorain agrees. Her son, Ryan, recently died from a drug overdose.
“On July 2nd of this year, we got the call that our son had died,” she says, as her voice chokes with emotion. “ And I don’t think people really understand behind the addict, people like me, the Mom, Dad, sister, grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins….how much they love these people.”
Johnson says there are many people like her son who need treatment for mental illnesses but can’t get it. And because they can’t, she says these people often lose their lives. Johnson and Clarett want lawmakers to expand Medicaid now so that all Ohioans who need help for treatment of mental illnesses or addictions can get it. Democratic lawmakers are becoming more frustrated.
Representative Dan Ramos says it’s time to pass Medicaid expansion. “Frankly the time for talking is done. The debate has been had. Everyone who has an opinion has stated it. And it’s worth mentioning that the public’s opinion is massively in favor of this, as well as the business community, the Chamber of Commerce, the labor unions, the hospitals know that this is in their best interests.”
Ramos and other Democrats are, once again, calling on Governor Kasich to persuade some Republicans to get behind the measure so it can be passed into law. And the Democrats want Governor Kasich to call the legislature back in session before October when it is scheduled to return. There’s no indication he will do that. And Republican House Speaker Bill Batchelder doesn’t give any indication that the Medicaid expansion will happen.
“Expansion,” Batchelder says, “I don’t think that’s a good idea. Reform is a good idea. So we will have language doing those kinds of things. It’s been pretty tough, frankly.
Batchelder says that plan could pass before the end of the year.
Please follow our community discussion rules when composing your comments.