Hundreds of advocates for low income Ohioans packed into the Statehouse Tuesday for a rally to urge lawmakers to expand Medicaid. It’s the latest in an ongoing fight between Republican legislative leaders who don’t want to expand Medicaid and Governor Kasich, who backs the idea. Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles reports some lawmakers who want expansion are losing patience
Supporters of Medicaid expansion cheer as Governor John Kasich takes the stage at a Statehouse rally.
Kasich urges the group to talk to their lawmakers about why it’s important to expand the federal program to cover an estimated 275 thousand more low income Ohioans. He says lawmakers need to put themselves in the shoes of those people who cannot afford and do not have healthcare. And Kasich doesn’t mince words.
Kasich: "We are going to get this done. I don’t care what it takes. We are going to get this done. Period. Exclamation point. We will get it done."
But some Democrats say a rally is not what’s needed right now.
Heard: "There’s no victory here and there’s nothing to rally for around the Governor for at this point. I think there’s much to say to the Governor from the point of the advocates but hip, hip, hooray is not it."
That’s Tracy Maxwell Heard, the Democratic Leader of the Ohio House. She says instead of rallying, the Governor needs to be working with Republican lawmakers to change their minds and bring the issue up for a vote. Democratic Representative Mike Foley says now is the time for expansion.
Foley: "Look this is crunch time and it’s more than just public relations that we need to be engaging in. He needs to be making individual phone calls to his caucus and members of his party and really putting the hammer and screws to some of those people who are supposedly in the middle so we know as a body politic where these people stand."
When asked about the frustration by Democrats that Medicaid expansion isn’t moving fast enough, Kasich responds this way;
Kasich: "It’s politics. I mean it’s boring to me, isn’t it to you? It’s summer. We should be having a good time and not worrying about these politics."
Ingles: "Why not force it to the forefront though?"
Kasich: "I think it’s in the forefront as much as you can get it."
Ingles: "Can’t you force it…"
Kasich: "Force it how?"
Ingles: "Force their hand to bring it for a vote?"
Kasich: "Look, the legislature has ways to do things and they have told me they have a process in place. I want to respect the process. Now, let’s just assume I have mechanisms to force a vote here or there. You think that’s going to work?"
Kasich says this is a process of working with Republican lawmakers to help them realize why Medicaid Expansion should happen. Kasich says he knows how he wants to go about this process.
Kasich: "If I put people in a corner, I am unlikely to get what I want to help people who need help. Now, if I will be persistent and pleasant and working on this…..Now, all options are on the table. If the legislature doesn’t do it, then we are going to look ateverything that we can possibly do to bring it forward so we are not going to quit on this."
Kasich says it will be problematic if the legislature waits until the end of the year to put something in place. Democrats say they want Medicaid expansion to happen by the end of August.