Sometimes a speaker must lead his caucus out of a cave. It is such a time for Bill Batchelder, on the question of expanding Medicaid eligibility to low-income Ohioans who are uninsured.
The speaker of the Ohio House told reporters this week that his Republican caucus has “real concerns” about expanding Medicaid in the state because of the expense and “philosophical opposition” to implementing the Affordable Care Act.
Indeed, the caucus’ opposition to the health legislation has never been a secret. Its members vigorously supported both a challenge to the constitutionality of the law and a ballot amendment to the Ohio Constitution purporting to block participation. But the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the law. The caucus must bear in mind that for roughly 1.6 million Ohioans who lack health insurance, the need for coverage and medical care when they are sick is anything but a philosophical issue.
As far as the expense of expanding Medicaid goes, credible analyses of the data project that Ohio will come out ahead financially over the next decade as the federal government will assume a minimum of 90 percent of the cost of coverage for newly eligible individuals with incomes up to 138 percent of the poverty level. Barely a week ago, the Health Policy Institute of Ohio, in partnership with Ohio State University, the Urban Institute and Regional Economic Models, Inc., released a report that concluded, among other things, that 456,000 Ohioans stand to gain coverage and that the net gain from budget savings and economic activity would amount to $1.4 billion by 2022.
The report also indicated that without a Medicaid expansion, employers would face an additional $1.6 billion in costs over that period. Little wonder, then, that as the potential impact becomes clear, the voices calling for an expansion in Ohio are growing more varied and louder, among them the Columbus Chamber of Commerce, the Ohio State Medical Association, hospitals systems and health associations and advocates for the poor. Speaker Batchelder and his caucus would serve the state very well to add their voices in support.