OUR VIEW: Medicaid expansion will benefit more than 275,000 Ohio residents

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The Ohio Supreme Court has cleared away the final legal obstacle standing in the way of expanding Medicaid eligibility in Ohio, a move that will enable thousands of Ohioans to obtain health care coverage.

The court, in a decision issued Dec. 20, denied a challenge to the expansion brought by conservative legislators and Right to Life groups who questioned the constitutionality of moving forward on the Medicaid plan without a full vote of the legislature.

Gov. John Kasich, who proposed the Medicaid expansion earlier this year, resorted to having the State Controlling Board approve the plan after being stymied by GOP resistance to it because of opposition to "Obamacare." The seven-member board, which is composed of representatives of both parties, sided with the governor and authorized utilizing $2.5 billion in federal funding for the health program.

Kasich's end run on the legislature means that Medicaid eligibility will be available to more than 275,000 additional Ohioans, including those who are employed but don't earn enough to pay for health insurance. That not only is a compassionate move, but one that will improve the overall health of the state by ensuring that those who are sick can seek health care before they are in dire medical straits.

The governor, like many Republicans, has reservations about the Affordable Health Care Act -- known to critics as "Obamacare" -- but he also recognized the benefits Ohio stood to reap by taking advantage of available federal funding to broaden Medicaid coverage. Spurning funds in a symbolic rebuke to Obamacare might have gained him political points among some quarters, but such a move also would have denied Ohioans in need of health care coverage the opportunity to obtain it.

As a result of the Controlling Board's approval of the Medicaid plan, the GOP majority in the Statehouse subsequently passed legislation that curbed the powers of the board to prevent similar actions in the future. The legislature's move doesn't affect the action taken that enabled the expansion of Medicaid. The high court's ruling affirms it, which is good news for Ohioans who need health coverage.

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