CLEVELAND -- Gov. John Kasich said Friday that he's feeling optimistic ahead of a legislative panel's vote on funding an extension of the Medicaid health program to cover more low-income Ohioans.
The Republican spoke at the Cleveland Clinic, using one of the nation's best known hospitals to make his pitch. He was joined by advocates who support expansion.
Kasich asked why people seemed cold-hearted when it comes to providing health care for the poor.
"It's probably because they do not understand the problem because they have not walked in somebody's shoes," he said.
He told the audience to imagine a scenario some people face when they walk into an emergency room with no health insurance. "Or worse than that, you wake up in the morning and you see your daughter has a problem and you have no way to help her out," he said.
The seven-member state Controlling Board is scheduled to vote next week on Kasich's request to authorize spending federal money on the newly eligible Medicaid enrollees in the state.
"Folks, we have a vote on Monday. Say your prayers this weekend. I'm optimistic about this," he said at the Clinic, where he barely mentioned the vote while talking about how health care coverage affects people.
The Controlling Board includes two Democrats and a Kasich appointee who are expected to favor the request. That leaves the governor in search of a single vote among his fellow Republicans.
The GOP-controlled Legislature so far has resisted Medicaid expansion, which is one of the key components of President Barack Obama's landmark health care overhaul.
Republican lawmakers have cited concerns about increasing the national debt and fears that the money from Washington could be cut off.
The federal government would pay the entire cost of the expansion for the first three years, then 90 percent after that -- still well above Ohio's current level of 64 percent.
Ohio recently got approval from the federal government to extend its Medicaid eligibility. But Kasich's administration needs legislators to sign off on spending federal dollars on the estimated 366,000 residents who will be newly eligible.
For that approval, Kasich turned to the Controlling Board, which handles certain adjustments to the state budget.
The Kasich administration has asked for the authority to spend $561.7 million in federal funds this budget year and almost $2 billion next year to cover the new Medicaid population.