Ohio lawmakers considering the proposed two year budget are not likely to embrace Governor Kasich’s proposal to expand Medicaid. Advocates for Ohio’s poorest citizens continue to push for the expansion. Now, as Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles reports, a Republican lawmaker is coming out with a plan that she hopes will be able to provide coverage to more Ohioans by reforming Medicaid.
State Representative Barbara Sears says she wants to expand Medicaid.
Sears: "So what I’m looking at for the legislation I’ve dropped is to expand the eligibility for Medicaid up to 138% and do it in a way that we are going to try to reach certain goals that we’ve been talking about in the healthy Ohio work group."
That work group has been looking at ways to reform Medicaid to make the government program operate more efficiently. Sears says some of the recommendations of that group are included in this expansion plan and adds that’s why it’s different than the one Governor Kasich proposed months ago.
Sears: "It’s similar to Governor Kasich’s expansion plan in that it does expand Medicaid up to 138% of poverty. Additionally, we are stating in here that we are looking for additional responsibilities, that we are looking at additional abuse programs so we can help them get off. We are looking at trying to promote specific job training programs where they are available. And we are going to try to tie in contractually some kind of process with our managed care partners that will say where it’s appropriate, we expect you to make referrals for workforce development for educational employment related opportunities for recipients when they are able to do so."
Sear’s plan has caught the attention of Cathy Levine with the Universal Health Care Action Network of Ohio. She’s been pushing for the Medicaid expansion Governor Kasich wanted in his budget.
Levine: "We see this as a very promising step forward."
Levine says Sears has laid out a way to move this bill forward and Levine is hoping the bill will get serious consideration.
Levine: "Timing is everything. We need the legislature to pass authorization by June 30th so that the state has enough time to get the Medicaid expansion up and running by January 2, 2014. So it’s a step that we have a bill but there’s more that needs to happen. We understand other legislators are planning alternate legislation and we need to have the legislation out there, hearings held and a decision made."
Levine says she’s feeling cautiously optimistic that Ohio lawmakers will get something done by June 30th. When Representative Sears is asked about the chance of passage for her bill, she puts it this way:
Sears: "I think at one point the speaker said it’s 20 – 20- and 20. 20 percent who are for it, 20% looking for reasons to be for it and 20% absolutely never going to get their arms around doing it. I think it’s still somewhere around there."
As more Medicaid expansion plans come out, both sides will be scrutinizing them to make sure they provide coverage to the 275 thousand low income Ohioans who need it….and to reform Medicaid to make it operate more efficiently.