More Ohioans finding jobs, getting drug treatment under Medicaid, Kasich says

In the four years since Ohio expanded Medicaid, more people are getting drug treatment, fewer people are using emergency rooms and fewer enrollees are smoking, according to a report from Gov. John Kasich’s administration released Tuesday.

Medicaid costs state and federal taxpayers about $5 billion a year for the expansion.

When asked about the price tag, Kasich said federal entitlement programs should be reformed and streamlined to reduce costs. “There are a whole series of reforms that you can do. Everything in life is not about cutting. It’s about reforming and making things better,” he said.

Four years ago, Ohio expanded Medicaid, a state and federally funded health care program for the poor and disabled, as part of the Affordable Care Act. Nearly 700,000 additional Ohioans signed up, though over the course of four years it has covered 1.2 million additional people at one time or another.

Related: Pharmacy middlemen could lose billions in Medicaid contracts

“This is about putting ourselves in somebody else’s shoes,” said Gov. John Kasich on Tuesday. “Think about what your life would be like if you couldn’t get health care.”

With regular Medicaid, the federal government picks up 63 percent of the tab while the state match is 37 percent but the feds cover 93.5 percent of the cost for those signed up under expansion. That split is slated to move to 90-10 by 2021.

A new review of expanded Medicaid found the following:

— Ohio’s uninsured rate dropped to 9.3 percent in 2017, down from 17.3 percent in 2012 for adults ages 19 to 64;

— Roughly 26,000 people reported that Medicaid services helped them quit smoking;

— Roughly 290,000 Ohioans reported dropping expanded Medicaid coverage because either their income grew or the landed a job.

— Some 83 percent of enrollees reported that Medicaid made it easier for them to work;

— High-cost emergency room use decreased by 17 percent among expansion enrollees; and

— 96 percent of expansion enrollees who were diagnosed with an opioid abuse or addiction received some form of treatment.

Related: Pharmacy middlemen charge 31 percent markup to Ohio Medicaid for generics

Cheri Walter, chief executive of the Ohio Association of County Behavioral Health Authorities, said if Ohio lawmakers and the next governor decide to end the expanded program, Ohio would lose progress made combating the opioid addiction crisis.

Ohio Budget Director Tim Keen argued that Ohio’s share of the program cost is off-set by certain taxes and regulations, such as whenever a state inmate receives treatment for at least 24 hours outside prison, it can be billed to Medicaid instead of the state.

Nearly 83,000 Ohioans in the Dayton-Springfield-Middletown areas are covered by expanded Medicaid: 34,916 in Montgomery, 7,281 in Greene, 5,219 in Warren, 4,197 in Miami, 9,530 in Clark, 1,627 in Champaign and 20,006 in Butler counties.

Both candidates for governor — Democrat Richard Cordray and Republican Mike DeWine — have indicated they want to continue the program, though DeWine has said he wants to add work and wellness requirements for enrollees.

Related: What do you want the next governor to do about jobs, economy?

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