Will Ohioans be taken in by Obamacare Medicaid spin?

By Jason Hart | Ohio Watchdog

Ohio Gov. John Kasich hopes to keep Obamacare Medicaid funds flowing when the fiscal year ends next June, and he seems intent on selling the policy with the same rhetoric legislators rejected in 2013.

Kasich, a Republican, has made a new appropriation for the Obamacare Medicaid expansion a priority for his second term. Kasich is heavily favored in the Nov. 4 election against Democrat Ed FitzGerald, who also supports the expansion.

After campaigning against Obamacare in the 2010 race for governor — he said the law’s Medicaid expansion would “stick states with large and unsustainable costs” — Kasich embraced expansion, despite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing states to opt out without losing existing Medicaid funding.

The Ohio General Assembly stripped Medicaid expansion from Kasich’s budget in early 2013 and passed language forbidding it. But Kasich vetoed the Legislature’s ban and unilaterally expanded Medicaid before turning to the obscure Ohio Controlling Board for the Obamacare money.

Buckeye Institute Executive Vice President Rea Hederman

Because of the governor’s maneuvers, funding for the program cannot continue after the current budget cycle ends June 30, 2015, unless it’s approved by the Legislature or the 2013 Controlling Board process repeats itself.

Throughout 2013, Kasich justified the Obamacare expansion by saying it would “bring $13 billion of Ohio’s tax dollars back to Ohio,” later revising the estimated federal windfall to $14 billion. The governor said the Obamacare expansion was not part of the unpopular 2010 health insurance law.

By Kasich’s explanation, every dollar of federal funding Ohio would gain by expanding Medicaid would be a dollar previously taken from Ohio. Kasich also warned Ohio’s failure to expand Medicaid would send “Ohioans’ federal tax dollars” to other states, which made it seem as though his decision wouldn’t increase spending.

When questioned about Medicaid expansion this September in an interview with Gannett newspapers, Kasich reiterated, “I get a chance to bring $14 billion of Ohio money back here.”

Kasich’s portrayal of how expansion works conflicts with Obamacare cost projections from the Congressional Budget Office and the left-leaning Urban Institute. His talking points on the issue appear to have originated in his own Office of Health Transformation, which failed to reply to an Ohio Watchdog inquiry.

Ohio Watchdog contacted the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to check Kasich’s claims, but the federal agency administering the program declined to comment.

Dennis Smith, former director of the HHS Center for Medicaid and State Operations, has confirmed Kasich is wrong.

Rea Hederman, executive vice president of the free-market Buckeye Institute, in an email to Ohio Watchdog offered further explanation.

“Remember that all government spending ultimately results in taxation. If Ohio continues Medicaid expansion, that means higher taxes on citizens of Ohio to pay for Medicaid expansion at the federal and state level,” Hederman said. “Less government spending means fewer tax dollars required and collected by the federal government.

“Ohio is in the unique position of needing to reauthorize Medicaid expansion in 2015,” he said. “This gives the state a great opportunity to reconsider the blanket expansion that Governor Kasich implemented by sidestepping the General Assembly. Ohio should use this opportunity to reconsider the future of Medicaid and not accept the status quo of a blanket expansion.

“As new data arrives, we know that expansion is not a good deal. As the Buckeye Institute warned, Medicaid expansion could cause Ohioans to drop out of the labor force and we did see the labor force participation rate in Ohio fall since the Expansion even as the economy slowly recovers.”

“We also know that many more people have enrolled due to expansion than the Administration predicted. We have already surpassed the enrollment numbers the Kasich administration predicted for the summer of 2015. This means taxpayers are going to have bear a great share of the burden.”

With the governor’s office, Ohio Hospital Association, and Ohio Chamber of Commerce in favor of the expansion, Buckeye Institute faces an uphill climb in arguing its position. Obamacare proponents have even warned Ohio’s failure to expand Medicaid would bankrupt hospitals and the state’s entire Medicaid program.

The Cincinnati Enquirer, Columbus Dispatch, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Akron Beacon Journal and Toledo Blade endorsed the Obamacare expansion. All five newspapers applauded the governor when he expanded Medicaid unilaterally and appropriated money using the quasi-legislative controlling board.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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