Ohio Expands State Medicaid Program, Despite Lawsuit Threats

Ohio successfully expanded Medicaid as part of the Affordable Care Act, the 25th state to do so. Legislative opponents are threatening to sue.

Ohio Governor John Kasich

Ohio Governor John Kasich, shown here in a recent speech in Kentucky, successfully expanded Medicaid as part of the Affordable Care Act today through a state board vote. (Image Source: Governor Steve Beshear)

While there are many reasons to criticize and attack the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, the situation is not all bad and negative.  One bit of hope has appeared out of battleground state Ohio, of all places.  The Ohio Controlling Board, which, handles funding for the state from federal sources, approved funding from the federal government, totalling $2.56 billion, to expand the state's Medicaid program.  With Ohio's acceptance of Medicaid expansion, exactly half of the nation is receiving funds to expand the federal Medicaid program, one of the cornerstones of the Affordable Care Act.  This comes as Republicans in the Ohio legislature intend to challenge the vote with backing from conservative groups.

The Medicaid expansion serves as a key provision to the Affordable Care Act, allowing poor adults and families to join Medicaid if they cannot afford to purchase insurance under the so-called "individual mandate."  The Medicaid expansion mostly solved the problem of the mandate, which requires that every single adult and family have health insurance.  However, many states, controlled by Republicans at the legislative and/or gubernatorial levels, have refused to accept funding to expand their state Medicaid programs, out of explicit opposition to Obamacare.  Thus, up until today, only 24 states had expanded their state Medicaid programs with federal funding.

Ohio was one of those states with Republicans in control.  However, Governor John Kasich, himself a Republican, moved against the state and national party, and looked to expand Medicaid in his state in order to cover more than 275,000 Ohioans, as well as address health issues in the state, including the opiate/painkiller epidemic that is affecting the rural parts of the state.  Failing to get support in the Ohio General Assembly or Senate, Governor Kasich decided to bypass the legislature through use of the state Controlling Board to receive the funding.

Of course, in spite of the success of the Controlling Board, Ohio Republicans are steamed at being outflanked by Governor Kasich, and are moving to limit the impact.  The Ohio Senate is already moving to offer a $400 million income tax cut, using money from state hospitals that will benefit from the Medicaid expansion.  One Tea Party-aligned group, the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, is moving to file a lawsuit that will invalidate the Controlling Board's vote, and says they will have backing from Ohio lawmakers.  Furthermore, the Ohio legislature will seek to limit the authority of the Controlling Board in future votes.

Still, this is a step in the right direction, and some form of progress.  Right?