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Ohio Gov. John Kasich helps Montana expand Obamacare

By   /   May 5, 2015  /   News  /   No Comments

Part 7 of 19 in the series Kasich's Obamacare Roadshow
Photo credit: State of Montana

WITH KASICH’S HELP: Democrat Montana Gov. Steve Bullock finally got his Obamacare expansion, with Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s help

By Jason Hart | Watchdog.org

Obamacare supporters were frustrated in their efforts to expand Medicaid in Montana until Ohio Gov. John Kasich came to town.

“Kasich contributed, I think in a meaningful way, to passing Medicaid expansion in Montana,” Republican State Sen. Scott Sales told Watchdog.org.

During a January trip to Helena, Kasich accused Obamacare expansion foes of “turning down your money back to Montana on an ideological basis when people can lose their lives.”

“It’s about bringing our tax dollars home,” Democrat Montana Gov. Steve Bullock said, borrowing a line from Kasich when an Obamacare expansion bill — sponsored by Republican State Sen. Ed Buttrey — was introduced in March.

Bullock signed Buttrey’s Obamacare expansion bill last week, after Montana’s House and Senate approved it.

For two years before Kasich’s visit, Republican majorities in both houses of the Montana State Legislature kept Bullock from implementing Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.

An attack on the expansion’s critics from Kasich, a Republican, helped change that.

“He spoke the perfect Democrat talking points, including trying to shame people into voting for it, using, in my opinion, scripture that’s taken out of context,” Sales told Watchdog.org of Kasich’s January visit.

When Sales questioned Kasich’s simultaneous promotion of federally funded Obamacare expansion and a balanced federal budget, Kasich told Montana lawmakers the Bible supports Obamacare.

Kasich “gave cover” to Republican supporters of Obamacare expansion and helped Bullock pressure the expansion’s critics, Sales said.

“It fit the narrative of the Democrats, having someone that has a reputation — whether it’s deserved or not — to be a fiscal conservative who comes and advocates for something like that,” Sales explained.

Balanced Budget Forever, a group created by Kasich backers to promote a Convention of States and add a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, paid for Kasich’s Montana trip.

After Kasich’s visit, Sales said, Montanans told him, “I think you’re gonna defeat the Convention of States, but I think Kasich did everything he could to help pass Medicaid expansion in Montana.”

Bullock was triumphantly quoting Kasich’s false assertion — “your money back to Montana” — by the time Kasich left the state.

“It got a lot of play in Montana, inside the Legislature as well as outside,” Sales said. “The guy that basically carried the bill, a portion of his talking points were straight out of Kasich’s playbook.”

“I will not and I have not supported a pure Medicaid expansion,” Buttrey told Montana Public Radio. Unlike Kasich’s Obamacare expansion in Ohio, Buttrey’s bill includes cost-sharing and job training requirements for enrollees.

A Great Falls Tribune editorial endorsing Buttrey’s Obamacare expansion bill noted Kasich “visited Montana to urge Republicans to support it here.”

The Tribune, The Montana Standard and the Missoulian all emphasized Kasich’s support for Obamacare expansion in coverage of his January trip to Montana.

Bullock pointed to Kasich’s support at press events promoting Medicaid expansion, and Obamacare expansion coalition Healthy Montana Campaign got mileage out of Kasich’s pro-Obamacare rhetoric.

An executive from hospital network Benefis Health System wrapped up a January presentation at a Northcentral Montana Healthcare Alliance conference by quoting Kasich’s attack on Obamacare critics.

Washington Post blogger Greg Sargent applauded Kasich’s “powerful case for Obamacare.” Talking Points Memo contributor Dylan Scott cheered Kasich on for “forcefully arguing for other states to expand Medicaid.”

The Kasich administration did not respond to a request for comment about the governor promoting Obamacare expansion in Montana.

Part of 19 in the series Kasich's Obamacare Roadshow

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Jason is an Ohio-based reporter covering labor issues for Watchdog.org, with a focus on right-to-work, public employee unions and Obamacare. Before joining Watchdog, Jason was communications director for Media Trackers Ohio. His work has been featured at FoxNews.com, Hot Air, The Daily Signal, RedState, Townhall and elsewhere. His investigations into labor union spending and Obamacare's Medicaid expansion have been cited by national commentators including Jim Geraghty, Michelle Malkin, Erick Erickson, Dana Loesch and Mark Levin. Jason can be reached on Twitter at @jasonahart and by email at jhart@watchdog.org