Gov. John Kasich made good on his pledge to expand Medicaid eligibility in Ohio, doing an end run on ideologues in his own party who vowed to block it, and in the process enabling 366,000 Ohioans to gain access to health care coverage.
After Republicans in the Ohio legislature made it clear that they would not consider the Medicaid issue because of its perceived ties to Obamacare, Kasich turned to the State Controlling Board to approve participation in the plan, which will bring $2.5 billion in federal health care funding to Ohio.
House Speaker Bill Batchelder, a Medina Republican, proved to be the key to passage of the measure. He removed two anti-Medicaid Republicans from the controlling board and replaced them with two who supported the governor's plan. The Medicaid appropriation request was approved by a 5-2 vote.
Batchelder had joined 39 other Republican legislators in protesting Kasich's move to put the issue before the controlling board, and distanced lawmakers from the expansion decision, saying that the governor had already accomplished that. Whatever his reasoning, the House speaker's maneuver enabled the expansion process to proceed.
Kasich has contended that Ohio's participation in the Medicaid expansion was not an endorsement of Obamacare, but would enable the Buckeye State to tap into federal money that would provide Ohioans with health care coverage, which he said "was the right thing to do."
The governor has sustained a number of setbacks at the hands of his own party at the Statehouse. Republicans in control of the legislature have torpedoed elements of his budget, school funding formula and bid to boost the severance tax on the oil and gas industry. He dug in his heels on Medicaid and bypassed the House and Senate, opting to put the issue before the seven-member controlling board, which signs off on appropriations. In doing so, he demonstrated his willingness for outside-the-box thinking, the unpredictable streak that helped him win office in 2010.
He faces a court challenge over the legislative bypass. We hope he prevails.
Ohioans will be healthier because of the Medicaid expansion and the state will tap into $2.5 billion in federal funds that it otherwise would not receive. That is reason enough to put ideology aside. We commend the governor for his leadership.