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Ohio Lawmaker Wants to Cut Medicaid Eligibility to Federal Minimum

Friday, August 23, 2013 at 6:00 PM

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While Gov. John Kasich says he’s working with lawmakers to expand Medicaid to more Ohioans, one legislator is proposing a plan that would dramatically cut eligibility. The representative tells Statehouse correspondent Andy Chow that it’s time for Ohio to reduce the participants in what he calls a corrupt system.

State Rep. John Becker of southwest Ohio wants to cut Medicaid eligibility rates down to the minimum that federal law requires.

“My question has been ‘Why are we spending a lot of taxpayer money for an inefficient and ineffective program that’s well above federal minimums?’” he said.

The lawmaker plans to formally introduce a bill next week that would change Medicaid rolls for parents, pregnant women and those on the buy-in system.

As of now, parents in Ohio are eligible for Medicaid if they’re earning at or below 90 percent of the federal poverty level.

Becker’s plan would drop that to 34 percent. For pregnant women, that threshold would go from 200 percent of the poverty level to 133 percent. And the state’s Medicaid buy-in program for workers with disabilities would be cut altogether.

Ohio’s Office of Medicaid did not have a comment regarding Becker’s plan.

The representative says this proposal is just one way of addressing what he believes is an overall problem with federal government programs.

“For one thing, whenever you’re spending somebody else’s money which of course is what you’re doing in any government program you’re reaching into one person’s wallet and giving money to somebody else,” he said. “You know, I just have some general philosophical problems with that and whenever it’s done it does give me pause.”

Becker adds that the federal government is on an unsustainable path of spending that could ultimately lead to bankruptcy. If the state goes with his plan, Becker says it would save $1.5 billion.

Cathy Levine, co-chair of Ohio Consumers for Health Coverage, says this plan would impact hundreds of thousands of people.

“He wants to go down to the bare minimum, which puts us in Charles Dickens England in terms of health care policy,” Lavine said, “throwing us back to a time when low-income families went without basic health coverage.”

She urges that taking away health care that could cover preventative measures would only amount to more medical problems later down the road, and this is merely shifting the cost.

“When you take away health coverage, you save the money you’re paying up front,” she said. “But you pay for health care usually in more expensive places. People who don’t get prenatal care are more likely to give birth to children who need a lifetime of care and will receive that care at far greater costs.”

Becker responded by saying Levine has a point, “but what I come back to is if you look at the whole Medicaid program, it’s probably the worst-devised federal program ever in existence. And it is so wrought with fraud, abuse, corruption and waste just the thought of expanding or doubling down and all that—I’m just frankly repulsed by the idea.”

Becker admits that his plan could increase costs in other areas, but adds that no one knows just how much that would be.

Levine has been on the front lines advocating for Medicaid expansion. She says the health care industry agrees that eligibility should increase, adding that Becker’s proposal is a purely political move that shouldn’t be taken seriously.

“The General Assembly is not going to vote to take health coverage away from pregnant women, women newly diagnosed with breast and cervical cancer, people with disabilities and low-income parents whose health is essential for the well-being of their children,” Levine said. “This is an incredibly mean-spirited move if it were taken seriously, but I don’t think it’s serious.”

Becker says his bill might not get consideration as a standalone measure but hopes it adds to the bigger conversation about Medicaid expansion.

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Government/Politics, Health

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