Ohio House Republicans aren't moving forward with a Medicaid expansion, but they kept the door open. The House last night placed a provision in the budget asking the Kasich administration to assist them in exploring new Medicaid options, seeking approval from the federal government and proposing legislation this fall.
Ohio House Republicans aren’t moving forward with a Medicaid expansion, but they kept the door open.
The House last night placed a provision in the budget asking the Kasich administration to assist them in exploring new Medicaid options, seeking approval from the federal government and proposing legislation this fall.
The amendment, which got bipartisan support, is part of final changes the House made last night before voting 61-35 for the two-year, $61.5 billion budget. The bill now goes to the Senate.
The House also stripped out controversial sex education language that was inserted into the budget earlier this week. It would have banned teaching about “gateway sexual activity,” allowed parents to sue for damages if their child received such instruction, and allowed a judge to impose a civil fine of up to $5,000.
Rep. Ron Amstutz, R-Wooster, the chairman of the House Finance Committee, said that with all the attention the proposal was getting, it was probably best to discuss it outside the budget process.
House Republicans rejected Gov. John Kasich’s push for a Medicaid expansion under the federal health-care law. Instead, they are looking for a revamp of the state-federal health-care program, while still allowing coverage for more low-income Ohioans. They likely need agreement from the federal government.
Rep. Barbara Sears, R-Sylvania, said members will “go to school” on Medicaid efficiency over the summer.
The proposal calls for a bill to be introduced between Sept. 15 and Oct. 30 — after the two-year budget is passed. The proposal may call for altering the Medicaid system in Ohio, getting a waiver from the federal government, or both.
“This amendment does not predispose the outcome we will follow,” Sears said, adding that they are eyeing the “goal of moving Ohioans up and out of government programs to the best of our ability.”
Kasich will continue to push to extend health-care coverage but is “pleased that the House backed away from its initial position,” said spokesman Rob Nichols.
Jon Allison, a leader of the Ohio Alliance for Health Transformation, said the coalition appreciates the House action but will continue to push for an expansion in the Senate.
“We are concerned, however, that time is of the essence considering the fact that substantial parts of the Affordable Care Act will become effective on Jan. 1 and delaying extended coverage impacts real Ohioans’ lives,” he said.
House Minority Leader Armond Budish, D-Beachwood, called the House Republican plan “better than nothing, but not much better.” He said it kicks the can.
“Those who would benefit (from expansion) are working people,” he said. “These are not takers who are dependent of government. They are breaking free of dependency, but at $10,000 or $20,000 per year, they can’t afford health care.”
Kasich’s plan would have covered about 275,000 low-income Ohioans up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, about $21,000 for a family of two. It would have brought $13 billion in federal money to Ohio over seven years.
A number of House Republicans objected to the expansion, arguing about concerns over federal-deficit spending and the lack of clarity from Washington.
Democrats unsuccessfully tried to add a full Medicaid expansion or an alternative pilot program to the budget.
The House-passed budget spends $393 million more in state money than Kasich’s proposal and $2.1 billion less in federal money, largely because of the decision not to expand Medicaid.
All but three Democrats voted against the bill, citing concerns including education funding, the blocking of federal funding for Planned Parenthood, tax changes, more vouchers and the lack of a Medicaid expansion.
Democratic amendments to remove or alter these issues and others were defeated, including an effort by Rep. Tracy Maxwell Heard, D-Columbus, to eliminate a provision that could allow a state takeover of Columbus City Schools for its data-scrubbing troubles.
House Republicans also drew some fire for a move last night related to the new Common Core education standards.
The House moved to no longer require that a $10 million earmark for school broadband capacity be tied to the requirements of new online tests developed in conjunction with new Common Core standards.
As some conservative groups nationally have taken to attacking the new Common Core standards as “ Obama core,” Terry Ryan, vice president of Ohio Programs for the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, worries some GOP lawmakers are buying into the rhetoric.
The standards, he said, were developed by states, business leaders and other experts and approved in Ohio in 2010. Ohio schools are preparing for the new standards and tests that come with them, and Ryan says they are vital.
“This has been a bizarre reaction that seems to be based on the belief that this is some Washington mandate,” he said. “It’s crazy, kind of black helicopter-type stuff.”
Some newer members of the House GOP caucus have raised issues with Common Core.
“It’s being removed here to remove the question that needs to be answered in the education committee about what’s going on with that program and where we stand with it,” Amstutz said.