Gov. John Kasich said Wednesday he’ll work with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in an effort to pass Medicaid expansion after Republican lawmakers kicked the idea and most of his other proposed reforms to the curb.
“I’m going to continue to do everything I can to fight for it in a constructive way,” Kasich told reporters.
Kasich included the proposal to expand Medicaid to cover 275,000 poor Ohioans in his two-year budget plan. House Republicans yanked it out of the budget Tuesday because not enough members supported the idea. Kasich and other Medicaid expansion advocates say the Senate could still add it back in, though the odds of it passing appear slim.
Medicaid expansion has the support of more than 100 organizations and leaders including the Ohio Hospital Association, AARP Ohio, Ohio Chamber of Commerce, Ohio Right to Life, Ohio Manufacturers Association, National Alliance on Mental Illness Ohio and the County Commissioners Association of Ohio.
Kasich said Wednesday organizations and people outside of state government could help push lawmakers in favor of expansion. A few thousand people from around the state are expected to rally in support of Medicaid expansion outside the Statehouse at noon today.
House Speaker William Batchelder, R-Medina, said members were split about 20-20-20: 20 against expanding Medicaid, 20 leaning toward approval and 20 on the fence. The measure would need 50 votes to pass the House. Although Democrats generally favor Medicaid expansion, they don’t like many other aspects of the budget proposals.
House Democrats, who control just 39 seats in the 99-member chamber, introduced a standalone bill that mirrors Kasich’s Medicaid expansion proposal. One of the bill’s sponsors, Rep. John Patrick Carney, D-Columbus, said without Medicaid expansion hospitals will be stuck with the bill for inevitible emergency room visits by people without health insurance.
“Rejecting Medicaid expansion is not fiscally conservative,” Carney said, “it’s fiscally irresponsible.”
But the Democratic bill too faces long odds. If all 39 Democrats voted ‘yes,’ just 11 Republicans would be needed for the bill to pass. But Batchelder personally opposes Medicaid expansion, and could block a floor vote on the expansion.
Batchelder said he needs assurance from the federal government that Ohio would be able to back out of the Medicaid expansion if the rules change. He said that seems likely given the instability in Washington, D.C., and the mounting federal debt.
“That I think is a huge question that the proponents of this thing have to recognize,” Batchelder said. “If for some reason we were ensured that if we could get out of this thing when it turns upside-down, that would be a different matter.”
Rep. Richard Adams, R-Troy, said Medicaid expansion is the biggest issue the legislature is currently facing, and he’s on the fence about whether or not he supports it.
“I think it merits more study, and the best way to do that is to study it alone, as opposed to being just part of a 4,192-page bill,” Adams said.