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Ohio's Medicaid Expansion Appears Safe From Veto Override

Gage Skidmore

Ohio lawmakers are scheduled to come back to the Statehouse on Thursday to possibly override some of Gov. John Kasich’s vetoes over the two-year session. But legislative leaders say they might steer clear of Medicaid expansion, a decision that could spare health insurance for 400,000 Ohioans.

Some 18 months ago, Kasich vetoed a provision in the state’s $133 billion two-year budget that froze enrollment in Medicaid expansion – which extends benefits to Ohioans earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

Loren Anthes, a public policy fellow for the Center for Community Solutions, said that lawmakers still have a chance to override Kasich’s veto. And if they do, Anthes said thousands of Ohioans could lose their health coverage and the state would enter unprecedented legal territory.

“We don’t know if it is legally allowable for states to have an expansion when there’s a freeze and still collect the higher rates of reimbursement, so does that put all of these extra dollars coming into Ohio at risk?” Anthes said.

A spokesperson for the Ohio House said Wednesday that the Medicaid expansion freeze is not among the veto overrides being considered at this point.

Anthes said Medicaid pays for half of the childbirths in Ohio, along with nursing home care and opioid addiction treatment for thousands of Ohioans. 

If the Ohio legislature had its way, Medicaid expansion would not have happened in the first place. Kasich had to go around the legislature in 2013, using a panel of state lawmakers to implement the expansion.

The federal government footed the cost of the expansion for the first few years but is expected to pare its share down to 90 percent by 2020.

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment.