Ohio lawmakers have been at odds on whether to expand Medicaid coverage to more low income people since Republican Governor John Kasich proposed an extension of the program in February. On Tuesday, a subcommittee from the Ohio Senate visited Cleveland's MetroHealth System in an effort to learn more about Medicaid. Ideastream's Sarah Jane Tribble reports on what they saw.
Ohio's lawmakers toured MetroHealth's Broadway Health Center on Cleveland' East side Tuesday, starting the day walking past patients in the waiting room and trying to make sure they weren't interrupting care.
"If patients come here and they do not have an identified primary care doctor and they need to get follow up we will schedule them with … come on through maam I'm sorry….."
The senators met patients like Angelo Rome.
He's 52 years old and had gone without health insurance for years before enrolling in Medicaid through a new waiver program for childless adults. Rome spoke to the senators after they toured the facility and told them how the county hospital has saved his life.
"I'm from the street, you understand me, and to me, this was quality treatment. It's like, It's like a team.," Rome says.
That team effort, or what doctors call coordinated care, was just what MetroHealth was hoping the senators would see at the center. The idea, says MetroHealth's John Corlett, is to show that Medicaid can provide life-saving care while also saving taxpayer money.
Rome explained that his new coverage allowed him to meet with doctors regularly and get his prescriptions. That helps him avoid expensive trips to the emergency room.
In the end, Corlett and others hope that Ohio's lawmakers will meet patients like Rome and be convinced that expanding Medicaid is a good idea.
"I think there's a lot of activity going on right now behind the scenes and I think a lot of folks are trying to figure out what that path is and it's clear that any successful path is going to have reform as a major element. And what we tried to do today is illustrate how putting reforms in place could make coverage extension possible," says Corlett, vice president of government relations and community affairs at MetroHealth.
Republican Senator David Burke, who chairs the subcommittee, said he had learned a lot. And he said it could be used to improve the current Medicaid system - but not necessarily for expansion.
"We're trying to fix a problem our effort has always been around reform and I believe before you broaden the horizon around a project I think you should focus back on the original issues," Burke says.
As for expanding Medicaid?
Democratic Sen. Capri Cafaro, who was also on the tour, hopes something will be done soon.
" Time is ticking and after months of talking we are well overdue to take action and there are real people at stake here, real lives and our decisions have real impact and we need to put those people above politics," Cafaro says.
And MetroHealth hopes the tour for senators showed exactly how lives are at stake.