Ohio Gov. Kasich says Obamacare expansion saves babies


By Jason Hart | Ohio Watchdog

Ohio Gov. John Kasich has hailed the Obamacare Medicaid expansion as an answer to Ohio’s high infant mortality rate.

“Tens of thousands of babies have been born full term, and that represents significant progress,” Kasich told attendees of the Ohio Department of Health’s 2014 Ohio Infant Mortality Summit in Columbus on Thursday.

He pointed to Obamacare as a reason for this progress.

“With Medicaid expansion, we’ve now signed up somewhere around 176,000 potential — well, 176,000 women who would not have had health care, any kind of comprehensive health care without having done that,” the Republican governor said, garnering applause.

Video of the governor’s Dec. 4 speech is available courtesy of Youngstown Vindicator reporter Marc Kovac.

Governor’s Office of Health Transformation communications director Aaron Crooks confirmed in an email to Ohio Watchdog that 176,000 is an estimate of the total number of Ohio women enrolled in Medicaid under the Obamacare expansion.

To bring billions in Obamacare funding to the state, Kasich expanded Medicaid to all Ohioans with income up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line in 2013. Kasich’s Obamacare expansion has put 430,000 Ohioans on Medicaid this year.

Pregnant women with income up to 200 percent of the poverty line have been eligible for Medicaid in Ohio for years. A 2012 pamphlet for the state Healthy Start program listed “complete pregnancy-related care before and after your baby is born,” nutritional assistance and other “pregnancy-related services” as covered by Medicaid.

“The Pregnancy Related Services program is designed to reduce the risk of preterm birth and poor pregnancy outcomes by supplementing regular obstetrical care with services such as counseling, education and care coordination,” stated 2004 Ohio Department of Job and Family Services materials for obstetricians.

Kasich, ever willing to pound legislators from his bully pulpit, called out Rep. Terry Johnson and Sen. Shannon Jones, both Republicans, during the speech Thursday.

“Terry and Shannon, we’re gonna renew Medicaid expansion in the Legislature, aren’t we, huh, Terry?” Kasich asked, to applause. “Nothing can get in our way on this, Terry.”

When the crowd laughed, Kasich told attendees of the infant mortality conference to organize protests pushing Obamacare.

“No, I’m serious, folks, look, I got a lot of you here today — if that thing is at risk, we’re gonna be marching, you got it?” Kasich said. “We’re gonna march, and you’re gonna show up because we gotta get this done, OK?”

Kasich previously claimed Medicaid expansion is necessary for Ohio’s veterans, drug addicts, the mentally ill and working poor, but spinning the program as beneficial to the unborn is new. Last year, Cleveland Right to Life and Right to Life of Greater Cincinnati were both parties to a lawsuit against Kasich’s Obamacare expansion.

“It does not well serve Ohio babies or the state at large to encourage a huge subclass of citizens dependent on government assistance from birth,” Right to Life of Greater Cincinnati executive director Paula Westwood said in an email to Ohio Watchdog. “Ohio is fast becoming a nanny state.”

By the Kasich administration’s own estimate, “about half” of the Ohioans covered under Medicaid expansion are employed.

“Expanding welfare to able-bodied childless adults isn’t going to reduce infant mortality,” Foundation for Government Accountability research director Jonathan Ingram told Ohio Watchdog via email.

“It didn’t happen in Maine or Arizona when they expanded Medicaid to able-bodied childless adults in the early 2000s, and there’s no reason to think that it will happen in Ohio. Ohio already covered pregnant women earning less than twice the federal poverty limit, back before Kasich decided to move more than 400,000 new able-bodied adults to the front of the line.”

“Unfortunately, Kasich’s unilateral expansion of ObamaCare will prioritize this new class of able-bodied adults over the truly needy, including poor children and pregnant women,” Ingram continued.

“At the same time Gov. Kasich was lobbying to bring ObamaCare to Ohio, he was busy proposing Medicaid funding cuts for pediatric hospitals. As cost overruns mount and the state share of the expansion bill comes due, who else will Kasich put on the chopping block?”