Health Coalition mulls future without Medicaid expansion

April 12, 2013

Wayne Allen

PDT Staff Writer

The proposed Medicaid expansion in Ohio now appears to have an ominous future. Members of the Scioto County Health Coalition took the information in stride, during their meeting on Friday.

“It looks like Medicaid expansion will not happen in Ohio. I spent the entire day at the State House yesterday (Thursday) along with others to let the governor know we supported him. As we sit here right now, it does not look good,” said Gary Roberts, Director of the Pike County Community Action Organization.

According to the Associated Press, an estimated 2,500 demonstrators assembled at the Ohio Statehouse Thursday to urge state lawmakers to extend Medicaid coverage under the federal health care law.

The rally follows a decision by Ohio House Republicans to strip the expansion plan from the budget. Republican House leaders said uncertainty in Washington over rules for the program caused them to reverse course on the expansion.

Ed Hughes, Executive Director of Compass Community Health said State Rep. Barbara Sears is proposing a waiver and that is the only path way forward.

“The waiver program would expand Medicaid, not on the same model the governor has proposed. As far as anything coming out of the budget, it does not look good at all,” Hughes said.

In February, the health coalition endorsed Gov. John Kasich’s plan to expand Medicaid in Ohio.

Kasich released his plan with this proposal for a $63.3 billion 2014-2015 state budget.

Kasich’s plan would expand Medicaid eligibility to Ohioans earning up to 138 percent of federal poverty level (about $15,400 per person). But the extension comes with a condition: If the federal government fails to cover the bulk of the costs, as it has promised, the state will reverse course.

“For a number of years we’ve lived with the reality that some of the unhealthiest folks in our community are unable to access health care services because they are uninsured. The Medicaid expansion will create a pathway for them to be able to access what we think is a very well developed system in our community, between primary care, hospitals and clinics that are available,” Hughes said. “There is likely 20 percent of our citizens that cannot access the services we have and this Medicaid expansion will create that opportunity.”

Hughes said the Medicaid expansion has the potential to be a good thing for the area. He said it’s also an economic development issue.

“If we are able to provide health care services to those people then health care services will have to expand to meet that need and that could mean additional jobs,” Hughes said.

According to Hughes, this area is one that stands to be most positively impacted by the changes.

The group Advocates for Ohio’s Future recently released a fact sheet showing the potential impact of extending health care coverage in the state budget, if approved by legislators.

The fact sheet states, “Scioto County’s economy is stronger when everyone can participate in the economy. Healthy children become productive citizens, healthy citizens build strong communities, and health workers strengthen Ohio’s economy. If Ohio extends health coverage in the state budget 3,766 Scioto County uninsured 19-64 year olds are projected to gain health coverage by 2015.”

According to 2010 figures the group estimated there are 5,422 eligible uninsured adults in Scioto County.

The fact sheet states that if Ohio extends its medicaid coverage, by 2015 only 2 percent of Scioto County would remain uninsured. Based on 2010 figures that would represent a 69 percent decrease.

Wayne Allen may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 228, or tallen@civitasmedia.com. For breaking news, follow Wayne on Twitter @WayneallenPDT.