COLUMBUS -- A group that launched a petition drive with hopes of forcing lawmakers to sign off on Medicaid expansion has dropped the effort.
Healthy Ohioans Work informed Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted earlier this month in a letter that it was withdrawing the initiated statute it had proposed in September, citing Controlling Board action allowing health care coverage for more needy residents.
"When we filed the Healthy Ohioans Work petition in early September we stated that, 'Our highest hope and our greatest priority is to have Medicaid expansion authorized in 2013,'" Jon Allison, a Columbus attorney serving as spokesman for the group, said in a released statement. "... The Department of Medicaid acted to extend Medicaid coverage, and the Controlling Board authorized drawing down the necessary federal funds. Extended Medicaid coverage will begin on Jan. 1, 2014, and enrollment is scheduled to start on Dec. 9."
He added, "We acknowledge that the Controlling Board's Oct. 21 action is presently being challenged in the Ohio Supreme Court and are hopeful that the court will confirm that the Controlling Board's action was lawful and proper."
Healthy Ohioans Work had proposed a new state law to expand Ohio's Medicaid program "to the fullest extent permitted by the [federal] Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act."
Backers would have had to submit 115,000-plus valid signatures to the secretary of state's office before the end of the month to force the legislature to consider Medicaid expansion. They would have needed additional signatures to place the issue before voters next year, absent lawmaker approval.
Earlier this year, Gov. John Kasich proposed expanding Medicaid coverage to include Ohioans earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, providing health care to an estimated 275,000-plus residents, many single individuals with jobs.
The expansion is allowed under the federal affordable care act, with the federal government promising to cover all of the costs during initial years, but Republican lawmakers balked at the expansion.
Kasich sought permission from the federal government for the expansion anyway and bypassed full votes in the Ohio House and Senate on the issue, moving instead via a split vote on the Controlling Board. The latter is a seven-member panel, controlled by Republicans that signs off on spending authority and contracts.
Conservative members of the Ohio House have filed suit, hoping to reverse the Controlling Board decision. The Ohio Supreme Court is considering the case.
Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at email@example.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.