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Medicaid freeze veto stands

Ohio House does not vote on override of Kasich's decision

By Jim Siegel GateHouse Ohio Media Published: July 7, 2017 4:00 AM

Medicaid expansion enrollment in Ohio will not be frozen, but the Ohio House did vote Thursday to override a handful of Gov. John Kasich's Medicaid-related budget vetoes, giving lawmakers more authority over spending for the huge health insurance program.

To that, Kasich sent his fellow Republicans a message: "If you break it, you own it. I call upon senators to carefully consider the consequences of their decisions and keep Ohio on the right path."

House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, R-Clarksville, said he had the 60 votes to override the expansion freeze, but after talking to Kasich multiple times and getting assurance the governor would work with him on other vetoed items, the House decided not to go forward.

That "does not mean we will not come back in the fall and take that back up," he said. "We want to give the summer to let the federal government see if they are going to come to a conclusion in Congress before we take action on moving forward with the freeze waiver."

The House also overrode a Kasich veto of provision that likely will pave the way to fracking in state parks and other public lands.

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Aryeh Alex, director of the Ohio Environmental Council Action Fund, said, "This unconscionable attempt to override this veto puts the business interests of oil and gas companies ahead of the well-being of all Ohioans."

Majority lawmakers added the Medicaid freeze to the new two-year budget, but Kasich vetoed the measure and dozens of other provisions before signing it last week. The House returned to session Thursday and voted to override 11 vetoes.

Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Medina, said his members likely would support other overrides, should the House act on them later in the session. The Senate could return next week or later in the summer to take up override votes.

Under the freeze, no new Medicaid expansion enrollees would have been permitted after July 1, 2018. And if those on Medicaid at that time temporarily got a higher paying job and no longer qualified would not be allowed to return to the expansion rolls later unless the person is getting mental health or drug addiction treatment.

Kasich has touted the importance of Medicaid expansion in the state's efforts to battle an opioid crisis that last year killed more than 4,000 Ohioans.

In the explanation of his veto, Kasich argued the freeze violated federal law because it would deny coverage to members of an otherwise eligible group.


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