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Saturday, April 6, 2013

OH Senate President Kieth Faber & Rep. Matt Huffman question Governor John "I Love Obamacare" Kasich's Medicaid Expansion

As Governor Kasich continues criss-crossing the state trying to sell his shameful, untruthful and morally bankrupt argument for expanding an unsustainable Medicaid expansion in Ohio under Obamacare, Ohio Senate President Kieth Faber and OH Rep Matt Huffman speak out on the perils of this fiscally irresponsible and financially unsustainable proposal.

While Faber & Huffman should be applauded for speaking out, the OH Representative from the Cleveland area who serves on the Finance Committee, Rep. Marlene Anielski (614)644-6041 (click here to email), is leaning towards Medicaid expansion and refuses to even return constituent phone calls.

From Lima Ohio.com --

LIMA — On the same day that two powerful state legislators — Senate President Keith Faber and state Rep. Matt Huffman — laid out a case why the state needs to move cautiously before accepting federal funds for Medicaid, Ohio Gov. John Kasich was in Ohio’s Appalachian foothills extolling his proposal to expand the coverage.

Such is the battle that continues to play out among fellow Republicans over Medicaid, a tug-of-war that is soon to come to a head. It pits lawmakers who are trying to rein in government spending against the leader of their party who is on a crusade to help the poor with money provided under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.

The battle is becoming so intense that a core of Republicans spent part of last week’s “spring break” in Columbus trying to figure out a deal that would convince the governor to alter his push.

“Our colleagues in the General Assembly could design a better system to take care of the people we all care about,” Faber said Wednesday during a meeting at The Lima News.

Kasich, meanwhile, was in Jackson County arguing a much simpler case.

The governor told a Republican gathering that by accepting Obama’s expansion of the Medicaid program, $13 billion in taxpayer money would come back to Ohio from Washington over seven years.

“This is money that residents have already paid in federal taxes,” Kasich said.

Faber bristles at such talk. He said the plan Obama has put forth feels like an ultimatum more than anything, and said long-term funding of the program is troublesome at best.

“They essentially loaded the revolver and pointed it at the states, and said do this or else,” Faber said. “Nobody really believes this is free money from heaven. You’re essentially borrowing it from China and giving our kids the bill. And then the question is, how sustainable is it? Is it going to stay? You can’t back out of it.”

Without flexibility, the Celina Republican said, “It’s fraught with peril, no matter which way you go.”

Huffman said the problem is that government thinks in “small bites” of time instead of 10 to 20 years in the future. He compared the proposed Medicaid expansion to the funding problems of Social Security, noting it “appeared to be OK and financially affordable at the time, but here we’re looking back now 45 years later, and the whole thing is a disaster.”

Huffman doesn’t want to make another two-year decision that ultimately will be a bad decision over time.

“It’s gotta stop. At some point, the system is going to collapse,” the Lima state representative said.

Local effects

The Medicaid expansion would help individuals who earn up to 138 percent of federal poverty, roughly $15,000 annual income for an individual and $32,000 for a family of four. Many of these individuals who aren’t insured are likely working low-wage jobs without benefits. They may have to limit working because of a mental health condition that isn’t severe enough to qualify for disability.

For local businesses and organizations, the expansion would assist in a variety of ways.

For the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Allen, Auglaize and Hardin counties, the expansion would help many of their clients by opening up their annual funds to programming beyond health care assistance.

“We’re very concerned for the overall health of our community. We are currently using resources to pay for some of these services. This [Medicaid expansion] would help us to restore some of our programming,” said Phil Atkins, associate director of the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board. “Many of our clients need services that even expanded Medicaid won’t pay for. … It won’t pay for things like housing. It won’t pay for things like getting people ready for jobs.”

Without the expansion, the board has to be more selective in what they can do for community members. Sometimes that even means rationing health treatments for clients.

At Baton Rouge Health Services Community in Lima, the Medicaid expansion would help about 10 percent of its workforce who work part time without benefits.

“Given that we’ve already endured quite a bit of Medicaid cuts on the reimbursement side, I think having some sort of a relief from the health insurance coverage would really help skilled nursing facilities,” said Georgiana Saffle, president at Baton Rouge.

Leaders from both local hospitals, Lima Memorial Health System and St. Rita’s Medical Center, expressed support for the Medicaid expansion in newspaper columns they wrote for The Lima News in February.

“We are already caring for people regardless of their ability to pay as part of our mission to improve the health of our communities,” wrote Bob Baxter, CEO of St. Rita’s Health Partners. “Expanded Medicaid Eligibility would allow our charity funds to go further and more equitably spread the cost of care.”

Alternative ideas

While Faber and Huffman agreed health care coverage is needed in certain situations, such as those who suffer from mental health problems or those who don’t have benefits through their low-wage jobs, not everyone should necessarily be included within the 138 percent of poverty threshold.

They said the program may not have the best incentives for people.

“The system has to have incentives for people to improve their lives, and not simply service what they want at the moment,” Huffman said. “And when you do that, it’s painful to people. When you say you can’t get this, unless you’re job training, unless you’re getting your education, unless you’re drug-free.”

Huffman also discussed the possibility of larger medical organizations using other monies to care for the poor. Some GOP members, such as Barbara Sears, of Toledo, have also discussed using more state funds than federal funds.

Kasich says state funding is off the table.

“Some in the legislature think we can spend state of Ohio money and reject the federal money. … I won’t tolerate it,” Kasich told the Columbus Dispatch. “We’re not going to make you pay twice. … That’s not acceptable.”

The Kasich administration has been negotiating with the White House since November to use federal funds to pay for some people to buy private insurance.

During the governor’s State of the State address in Lima in February, Kasich told legislators, “Our economy is stronger, our credit is up, we’re doing the right things. … The Lord would not want us to ignore those who are now vulnerable. These are people who played by the rules. They’re hurting.”

The next part of the process is coming soon.

Mike Dittoe, a spokesman for House Speaker William G. Batchelder, told the Dispatch that the Republican caucus has not achieved a consensus on what to do about Medicaid, but expects a bill from the House in two weeks that would show “which direction we’re pointed.”

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