Kasich, GOP at odds over Medicaid coverage

Ohio Gov. John Kasich has visited the White House twice this weekend, meeting with President Donald Trump on Friday and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price on Saturday to discuss Ohio’s use of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. [Evan Vucci/The Associated Press]
Gov. John Kasich met Saturday at the White House with senior administration officials to urge them to continue funneling hundreds of millions of federal dollars to the states to finance health care for millions of low-income people who have received coverage because of the 2010 health law.

In an appearance on CBS’ “Face the Nation” taped after he met with President Trump on Friday, Kasich said it’s “not acceptable” to scuttle the Medicaid expansion and called on moderate Republicans to reach out to Democrats.

“I think there are some very conservative Republicans in the House who are going to say just get rid of the whole thing. And that’s not acceptable when you have 20 million people, or 700,000 people in my state, because where do the mentally ill go? Where do the drug addicted go?” Kasich asked.

The “Republicans can go and do what they want, and I’m going to talk to them. But at the end of the day I’m going to stand up for the people that wouldn’t have the coverage if they don’t get this thing right,” the governor said in a transcript released prior to the airing of the show this morning.

“And I happen to believe that the best way to get this right over time is for actually both parties to work together. I know that’s considered an impossibility now, but what’s at stake is not some political thing. What’s at stake here are 20 million Americans,” Kasich said.

With congressional Republicans hoping to scrap the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and replace it with a substitute, Kasich has mounted an effort to retain a key feature that expanded eligibility for Medicaid coverage, the joint federal and state program that provides health coverage to low-income people.

Kasich was one of the few Republican governors to accept the additional federal Medicaid dollars available through Obamacare, allowing 700,000 previously uninsured low-income people in Ohio to receive health coverage.

Following the meeting with Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, Kasich said in a video posted on his Facebook page that he was “expressing my concerns and some of the ideas I think (that) can allow us to reform the health-care system, save some money, but yet make certain that people who need coverage that they’re going to be able to receive the coverage that they need.”

“All in all a lot of work, but it’s worth it if we can have this come out in the right place,” Kasich said in the video posted by his staff. “I cannot predict the future. But we are certainly doing everything we can do.”

Kasich also joined the nation’s Republican governors at a second meeting in Washington to press for support to retain the Medicaid expansion. Kasich is one of a handful of GOP governors trying to propose a compromise to House Republicans to at least provide Medicaid coverage to families at the federal poverty line, which is $24,600 for a family of four.

A Kasich adviser would not elaborate on the meetings other than to say they were “productive.” But there was no sign that the Republican governors were ready to forge a consensus on Medicaid.

The Hill, a publication that circulates on Capitol Hill, quoted Gov. Brian Sandoval, R-Nev., as saying staffers from his office as well as Kasich’s will continue to meet today on whether a consensus can be reached among GOP governors.

The 2010 Affordable Care Act extended coverage to more than 20 million Americans previously without insurance in two ways.

Middle-income people who worked for companies that did not insure their employees were eligible for federal financial assistance to buy individual health plans through state and federal marketplaces known as exchanges.

In addition, the law expanded Medicaid to allow families of four earning as much as $33,948 annually — which is 138 percent of the federal poverty level — to be eligible for health coverage. Ohio and 31 other states accepted additional federal dollars to provide for the Medicaid coverage while 19 states did not.

But a fissure has opened between congressional Republicans and Kasich on Medicaid and the rest of Obamacare.

In a proposed bill outlined by House Republicans, GOP lawmakers want to scale back federal spending for Medicaid and eliminate federal assistance used by middle-income people to buy private plans.

Instead, House Republicans would replace the subsidies with tax credits.

In an opinion piece Friday in Forbes Magazine, Kasich suggested scaling back Medicaid coverage to families at the federal poverty line and provide federal subsidies to families of four earning between $25,000 a year and $34,000 a year so they could buy private plans on the federal exchanges.

Under Kasich’s plan, as many as 150,000 people in Ohio would lose their Medicaid coverage. It was unclear whether federal subsidies would allow families earning between $25,000 a year and $34,000 a year to receive the same kind of coverage that had through Medicaid.
John Torry, The Columbus Dispatch, February 26, 2017
Kasich, GOP at odds over Medicaid coverage