By Jason Hart | Ohio Watchdog
Ohio Gov. John Kasich capped his landslide re-election win with a victory speech praising Obamacare while artfully avoiding the unpopular law’s name.
Running as a foe of Obamacare and simultaneously promoting Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion as his own program for the drug-addicted and mentally ill, Kasich beat hapless Democrat Ed FitzGerald 64 percent to 33 percent.
Tuesday night Kasich repeated a campaign theme, saying, “as we’ve gotten stronger, as we’ve had more job growth, as our finances have improved, I am so excited about the fact that we have been able to reach out to many people who had been forgotten.”
This was one of several arguments Kasich offered for the Obamacare Medicaid expansion in 2013. When Kasich’s fellow Republicans in the Ohio General Assembly refused to take billions in new federal spending to redefine Ohio’s Medicaid program, Kasich expanded Medicaid unilaterally.
The governor’s re-election victory speech listed “the mentally ill,” “the drug-addicted,” and “the working poor” among those his administration has helped. These are the groups Kasich talks about whenever asked about Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, which he claims has nothing to do with Obamacare.
By Kasich’s formulation, Medicaid expansion is a laser-focused state-level handout taxpayers can afford because of his successful economic policies. In reality, Ohio has already spent $1.7 billion in Obamacare money on Medicaid expansion.
Under Obamacare, states have the option of taking additional Medicaid funds from the federal government — but in order to do so, must expand Medicaid from a program for the most vulnerable into a sweeping entitlement based only on income.
Kasich’s own Department of Medicaid has estimated “about half” of the Ohioans covered by the Obamacare Medicaid expansion are employed. In 2012, Urban Institute estimated 90 percent of uninsured Ohioans eligible for Medicaid under Obamacare would be working-age, able-bodied adults without dependent children.
Ignoring concerns about program effectiveness, costs, access to doctors and the impact on the workforce, Kasich expanded Medicaid last autumn to meet Obamacare’s guidelines and bring new federal deficit spending to Ohio.
Kasich continued Tuesday’s victory speech by adding, “we’re beginning to show the rest of the country that by reaching out, by having a good head and building a strong economy but a good heart that recognizes the struggle of those who oftentimes had been left behind, people now in Ohio feel included.”
“They feel optimistic,” Kasich said. “They feel hopeful.”
By the time Kasich expanded Medicaid to meet Obamacare’s funding requirements, the state’s rebound from the 2007-2009 recession had slowed dramatically.
Employment in Ohio is still more than 100,000 jobs below pre-recession highs, and more than 300,000 jobs shy of the 5.63 million peak reached before the 2001 recession. Since Jan. 1, over 400,000 Ohioans have been added to Medicaid under Kasich’s Obamacare expansion while the state has gained just 34,500 jobs.
“It seems that Gov. Kasich ‘forgot’ about the 40,000 children and adults with developmental disabilities that he left languishing on Medicaid waiting lists when he pushed 400,000 able-bodied adults to the front of the line,” Foundation for Government Accountability research director Jonathan Ingram told Ohio Watchdog via email.
“Sadly, Gov. Kasich’s unilateral ObamaCare expansion is poised to reverse any gains Ohio’s economy has made,” Ingram added. “As even the Congressional Budget Office admits, ObamaCare expansion discourages work and shrinks the economy. If past expansions are any indication, nearly 100,000 able-bodied adults could drop out of Ohio’s workforce as a result of Kasich’s expansion, while many more could reduce their hours or work only seasonally.”
“With a new Republican Congress elected on the promise of ObamaCare repeal, how long will Gov. Kasich continue to undermine them with his false rhethoric meant to protect his own ObamaCare expansion?”
Embracing Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion and justifying it with rhetoric similar to President Obama’s would be difficult for a Republican who didn’t control his state Republican Party and could not rely on the press to agitate on his behalf. These are not concerns that apply to Kasich.