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Medicaid Expansion’s Legality Debated Between Plaintiff and U of Akron Legal Expert

Wednesday, October 23, 2013 at 4:46 PM

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From left to right:  Ohio lawmaker Matt Lynch (R-Chagrin Falls); Gov. John Kasich; and U of Akron professor Will Huhn.

Governor Kasich’s decision to sidestep the legislature and expand Medicaid with approval from the state controlling board has critics crying foul – and mounting a legal challenge. But a law professor at the University of Akron believes the controlling board’s decision will stand. ideastream’s Brian Bull reports.

The day after the state controlling board approved the expansion, a group called the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law filed suit. 

Among the plaintiffs is Matt Lynch, a Republican lawmaker from Chagrin Falls.  He says the expansion of Medicaid should have been through a traditional legislative action.

“Whether you’re opposed to it or in favor of it, the point is…we should have an opportunity to debate those issues and make the decision,” argues Lynch.

In fact, the Republican-controlled legislature did just that last winter.  It decided to strip the Medicaid expansion out of Governor Kasich’s budget proposal before approving it, and that prompted the Governor to seek approval from the state Controlling Board. 

Will Huhn is a law professor at the University of Akron, and Associate Director of its Constitutional Law Center.  He says based on existing codes, the Governor’s maneuver….looks legit.

“The legislature created the controlling board.  By statute, they gave the controlling board this power, the controlling board authorization for a state agency to make an expenditure of federal funds, constitutes authority for the agency to participate in the federal program providing funds.  That’s the high revised code 135.35.”

Huhn also challenges Lynch’s contention - and the basis of the lawsuit - that the expansion goes beyond the scope of legislative intent. 

“While it’s in fact true that the intent of the General Assembly was not to approve this, that intent must be expressed in the language of a statute, and that did not occur,” says Huhn.

That’s because Kasich vetoed that particular language in the budget. 

If the Medicaid expansion holds, roughly 300,000 additional state residents will be covered.

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