Gov. Kasich urges Ohioans to expand Medicaid in USA Today op-ed

Advocates for the working poor argue that by expanding Medicaid, more of them would be able to visit doctor’s offices rather than showing-up at expensive emergency rooms.
Advocates for the working poor argue that by expanding Medicaid, more of them would be able to visit doctor’s offices rather than showing-up at expensive emergency rooms.

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Ohio Gov. John Kasich, once a talk show host on the FOX News Channel, took a turn as a columnist Monday in an op-ed he wrote for USA Today urging Ohioans to expand Medicaid. The newspaper put the article online Sunday afternoon and published it in hard copy form in Monday's editions.

Kasich is at the center of a fight within his own party over expanding Medicaid. So he used the late Pres. Ronald Reagan, who's achieved iconic status among today's Republicans, to try to make his case.

"After all, doesn't Reagan embody modern conservatism?" Kasich wrote. "He cut taxes, cut government red tape and fought the growth of entitlements. Yes, he did all those things. However, he also expanded Medicaid, not just once but several times."

Kasich hopes to take advantage of the federal government's offer in January to expand Medicaid to more of the working poor. For three years, Uncle Sam promises to pick-up 100% of the tab and never less than 90% after that, according to a federal government website. But at a time when Tea Party supporters, who often vote Republican, are worried about Washington and state capitals running out of money, it's proving to be a tough sell.

"…no one in their right mind expects the Federal Government to hold up their end of the bargain," Southwest Cincinnati Tea Party leader George Brunemann e-mailed FOX19.

However, for Dwight Tillery, taking the deal is a "no brainer."

Tillery founded Closing the Health Gap in the early 2000's in Cincinnati and hopes Ohio takes the federal government up on its offer to expand Medicaid.

"It's a bit short-sighted to not take advantage of this because one way or the other we will pay," he said. "And I believe we'll pay a lot more if we don't take the opportunity to have access to healthcare."

He believes expanding Medicaid would allow more of the working poor to go to a doctor's office to get minor health matters taken care of before they become big, expensive health crises that wind-up being treated in an emergency room.

"This is not just about money but is also about really helping people who are most vulnerable in our society," Tillery said. "What has made America great has been that compassion to reach and help people who are poor."

But he worries today's political climate is making that harder than ever. He believes if the Ohio General Assembly fails to pass an expansion of Medicaid, the issue could end-up on the ballot, pointing out that many Catholic leaders in the area support expanding Medicaid.

Figures from the Urban Institute and Center on Budget and Policy Priorities show:

  • Expanding Medicaid in Ohio would make 578,000 people newly eligible
  • Among them would be 24,600 uninsured veterans who do not or cannot get care at VA clinics or hospitals
  • Americans making $15,415 or less would be eligible for Medicaid
  • Families of three with an income of $26,344 or less would also be eligible

Many supporters of the Tea Party are suspicious of those figures, however.

"These program estimates always overestimate the funding and underestimate the expenses," Brunemann said. "Their assumptions of how many people will come forward to demand this new entitlement are far below what will actually happen if we allow this expansion to take place."

It's been a tough call in many Republican-leaning states. Indiana said no. However, Kentucky said yes to expanding Medicaid.

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