Gov. John Kasich's deci-
sion to expand Medicaid coverage in Ohio may not win him any friends among those who are adamantly opposed to "Obamacare," but it's a sensible solution to health care needs that will save money in the long run.
Kasich's proposal is a key element of his $63.2 billion, two-year budget proposal. He wants to expand Medicaid in Ohio using $2.4 billion from Washington to cover those who would become eligible for the program over the next two years.
Under Obamacare, the federal government will cover the cost of the expansion of Medicaid for the first three years, gradually reducing its support down to 90 percent. Even with the reduction, that's an improvement over Ohio's current level of Medicaid costs, now 64 percent.
Kasich, wisely, has included a "circuit breaker" clause on the Medicaid expansion. If Washington is unable to provide coverage at the expected level, Ohio can opt out of the plan. As the plan now stands, however, the governor views the expansion as a way of recapturing state tax dollars from Washington.
The governor says expanding Medicaid coverage to meet the health needs of Ohio's poor is a matter of compassion and common sense. People who are sick need health care, regardless of their ability to pay for it. By extending Medicaid to 138 percent of the poverty level, access to health care will be improved for low income workers, which ultimately benefits the economy by encouraging a healthier workforce.
The plan will be beneficial to hospitals as well. Many who now shun medical treatment, opting to remain sick or to "doctor" themselves because they cannot afford medical care, will be more likely to turn to health providers for their medical needs if they have a reasonable assurance of coverage.
Kasich has received criticism from a fellow Republican officeholder, State Treasurer Josh Mandel, who says there is no "free money," and that, in the long run, Ohioans will have to repay the debt that is funding federal government spending. Mandel urges the governor to reconsider the plan.
No plan is ideal, and opponents of Obamacare have raised valid points, but the governor's decision to expand Medicaid in Ohio is a sound idea that is likely to result in a healthier state.