Ohio Medicaid department under new leadership as federal government weighs funding for program

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The Ohio Department of Medicaid will soon have a new leader just as the incoming Trump administration is expected to make changes to the program on the federal level.

Ohio Medicaid Chief, John McCarthy, is leaving the post next month. He will be replaced by former state legislator Barbara Sears.  In a written statement, the governor’s office said Sears also served as the assistant director to the Office of Health Transformation and shares his vision for health care.

Medicaid has a multi-billion-dollar budget and is funded and administered jointly by the state and federal governments. 

Outgoing chief McCarthy has served in the role since the beginning of the Kasich administration and oversaw the governor’s expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.  Nearly 30 percent of Cuyahoga County’s low-income residents receive health-care through the program. 

Former Medicaid director and current executive director of the Cleveland-based think tank, Center for Community Solutions, John Corlett, said McCarthy has done a great job.

 “John McCarthy is actually one of the longest serving Medicaid directors in the country. On average a Medicaid director typically doesn’t last more than two years and he’s lasted much longer than that so he probably was just ready to do something else,“ Corlett said.

Under the Affordable Care Act, millions of low-income people became eligible for health insurance through the program nationally. President-elect Donald Trump has said he plans to make changes to Obamacare, but it’s unclear whether he will roll back the Medicaid expansion.

Ending the expansion would leave a large portion of local residents without health coverage, Corlett said.

“You have to be very careful about what you do here because if you take the wrong step or take the wrong action you could interrupt health care for literally hundreds of thousands of Ohioans. For example, in Cuyahoga County Medicaid provides health care for 30 percent of the population”, he said.

About one in four people on Medicaid in Cuyahoga County are covered as a result of the expansion, he said.

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