By Ann Sanner
COLUMBUS: More than 106,000 Ohioans have signed up for Medicaid under an expansion of the taxpayer funded health program, while thousands of others are waiting to hear whether they are deemed eligible.
Republican Gov. John Kasich’s administration moved forward with extending Medicaid eligibility last fall under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. Coverage took effect Jan. 1.
The safety-net program for the poor and disabled provides coverage for one of every five Ohioans.
The Medicaid expansion allows those earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level to gain health care coverage. For a single adult, that’s about $16,104 a year.
Ohio’s monthly report on Medicaid caseloads shows that 106,238 residents had enrolled under the extension as of March 31. That’s about 29 percent of the roughly 366,000 newly eligible people estimated to sign up by the end of June 2015.
Greg Moody, director of the Governor’s Office of Health Transformation, said he was not surprised by the number of Medicaid enrollees, which are slightly below original budget projections.
“We’re within what I would describe as a manageable range,” Moody said in an interview.
Residents have been enrolling in Medicaid through the state’s new benefits website. Potential enrollees can use the site instead of visiting county Job and Family Services offices, where many low-income residents apply for food stamps, cash assistance and other public programs.
More than 345,000 people have sought Medicaid coverage through the state’s benefit site since Oct. 1. About 65 percent of the applications have been resolved, while roughly 120,000 are still pending. Many of those cases await eligibility determinations by the state’s largest counties.
“It’s a sheer volume issue,” said Joel Potts, executive director of the Ohio Job and Family Services county directors’ association. He said the larger, urban counties simply have more people who are eligible for the program. Plus, workers are navigating a new state eligibility system.
“You have a bunch of things happening at the same time,” he said, adding that the majority of cases are getting resolved within a 30-day period.
Moody said the county offices have the option to partner with other counties to help process the caseloads, and the state is looking at other ways to provide help.