Kasich Officials Defend Medicaid Expansion, Tout Halving of Uninsured

Ohio Office of Budget and Management Director Tim Keen speaking at  MetroHealth
Ohio Office of Budget and Management Director Tim Keen speaking at MetroHealth [Marlene Harris-Taylor / ideastream]
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The Kasich administration’s campaign to tout the benefits of Ohio Medicaid moved from Columbus to Cleveland  Wednesday with an event at MetroHealth hospital.

Gov. John Kasich defended the Medicaid expansion in the state capitol earlier this week. He pushed the program past skeptical state lawmakers in 2013, but he is concerned about the future of Medicaid expansion after he leaves office in five months. Some lawmakers in Columbus believe it’s too costly. 

In Cleveland Wednesday, Ohio Office of Budget and Management Director Tim Keen told a group of officials at MetroHealth that despite the price tag, Ohio can afford to keep paying for Medicaid, even with the additional people brought in through the expansion.

“Medicaid is manageable and affordable today and into the future,” Keen said.

The $27 billion annual price tag for Medicaid is split between the state and the federal government. In Ohio, the federal government’s share is 63 percent and the state will pay about 37 percent this year, according to Keen.

He added that the federal government pays an even larger share for those enrolled in Medicaid through the expansion. The state covers about seven percent of the cost and the federal government covers the rest, about 93 percent.

Kasich is searching for and highlighting the stories of people who have benefitted from the expansion. The program has increased the Medicaid rolls in Ohio by 653,000, and it has cut the number of uninsured Ohioans in half. 

Keen argued Ohio is saving money on its portion of the Medicaid tab in some unexpected ways.

“A person in state prison is not eligible for Medicaid, but if they are ill enough and they leave the institution for 24 hours, they are eligible for Medicaid so the Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections have seen a savings of $18 million and that was a direct savings to the state,” he said.

Keen also cited other programs, which he referred to as budgetary off-sets, that are helping Ohio manage the cost of Medicaid, such as drug rebates, assessments on managed care plans, and a one percent tax on insurance premiums.

Medicaid is a major provider of health insurance in Ohio. Nearly three million people are covered. According to 2016 data, the largest group is families with children at 59 percent. Twenty-three percent joined through Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. Seniors in long-term care and disabled individuals make up about 13 percent of enrollees.



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