Supporters of Medicaid expansion in Ohio are determined to keep it a front-burner issue through the summer. A broad coalition that includes chambers of commerce, health-care associations, social service and law enforcement agencies, the advocates aim to persuade lawmakers to vote on a plan to extend health coverage to low-income, uninsured Ohioans.
John Kasich is on board with that. On Tuesday, the governor reaffirmed his commitment one more time at a rally of advocates: “We are going to get this done. I don’t care what it takes. We are going to get this done.”
And what will it take to get it done? Unfortunately, the consensus seems to end there. Advocates and the Democratic minority at the Statehouse, solidly in favor of expanding the public program for the poor, insist the governor ought to lean harder on his Republican colleagues in the House and Senate to deliver votes for an expansion measure. They have a point. Polls show a majority of Ohioans support an expansion. Surely, among them is a percentage of Republican lawmakers, who would appreciate a chance to vote on the issue. But as legislative leaders, House Speaker William Batchelder and Keith Faber, the Senate president, present a substantial barrier, having made it clear they would rather “reform” Medicaid — on a vague timetable — than pursue an expansion.
The governor is wary of backing his colleagues into a corner, he has said, and asks what more he could do “without going over the edge.” Much to his credit, he has rejected the blind opposition of many in his party to the measure in the Affordable Care Act and vetoed language in the state budget bill that barred the possibility of expansion. But he need not go “over the edge” to make the case to provide Ohio’s working-poor households an avenue for health coverage.
Sen. Faber, like the governor, on several occasions has promoted the state budget as all about creating opportunities for jobs, growth and stability. Yet he and his colleagues fail to recognize that Medicaid expansion plays a critical role in advancing economic opportunity.
For instance, a large percentage of uninsured individuals are workers whose employers do not provide coverage and who cannot afford private coverage on their wages. Health-care costs limit their ability to invest adequately in activities, such as education, that require resources. Others are frequently sidelined by mental illnesses or other chronic ailments that can be controlled with proper and consistent treatment. In the absence of health coverage and care, they contribute sporadically or not at all to their households and the general economy. Medicaid expansion promises to mitigate such losses — to the benefit of all Ohio.