Ohio Gov. John Kasich went around the state legislature to expand Medicaid under Obamacare in 2013, but that’s not the story he’s telling voters on the campaign trail.
Kasich, a Republican candidate for president, introduced a budget in February 2013 that included the expansion of Medicaid to working-age adults with no kids and no disabilities that was part of the 2010 health care overhaul. For months, Kasich pressed the state legislature to approve the expansion.
Here’s how the policy fight played out in 2013:
- The Ohio House stripped the Obamacare Medicaid expansion from its version of the 2014-15 budget.
- The Ohio General Assembly explicitly banned expansion in the final 2014-15 budget sent to Kasich’s desk.
- Kasich used a line-item veto to strike the legislature’s ban on expansion.
- The Kasich administration, with approval from the Obama administration, expanded Medicaid to the guidelines set in Obamacare.
- The Kasich administration asked the Ohio Controlling Board to appropriate funding to pay for the Medicaid expansion.
- The Ohio Controlling Board approved Kasich’s Obamacare expansion funding request.
- Six Republican legislators and two Right to Life groups sued over Kasich’s Controlling Board maneuver, but the Ohio Supreme Court ruled in the Kasich administration’s favor.
How does this compare to what Kasich is telling Republican presidential primary voters?
“The legislature didn’t want to vote,” Kasich told New Hampshire town hall attendees last week when asked why he implemented the expansion against the General Assembly’s wishes.
Kasich said General Assembly leadership agreed to pass the Medicaid expansion through the Controlling Board, a quasi-legislative panel of six legislators and one executive appointee, because “we couldn’t get a vote.”
“Now I didn’t just do this on my own, young lady, I did it with the blessing of the leadership and we got it done,” Kasich said.
Former state Rep. John Adams, the fourth-ranking member of the Ohio House majority leadership at the time, told Watchdog.org he was never involved in any such conversation.
“They did not have a caucus meeting to tell everybody, ‘this is what we’re going to do,'” Adams explained. “I’m amazed that this governor wants to throw Bill Batchelder and Keith Faber under the bus, even though they were complicit.”
Before the Controlling Board vote, Senate President Faber insinuated Kasich had backed lawmakers into a corner by threatening to bankrupt Ohio’s Medicaid program if Obamacare money was not appropriated.
The House speaker and Senate president can swap Controlling Board members at will. Batchelder and Faber stacked the panel so Kasich’s Obamacare funding request would be approved.
“I was there. We had a solution our caucus could have chosen,” Adams said, explaining that he and Rep. Jim Butler previously met with Batchelder and shared a list of options for treating Ohio’s drug-addicted, mentally ill and working poor without taking Medicaid expansion money.
But at the October 21, 2013, Controlling Board hearing where Kasich’s Obamacare funding request was approved, Ohio Department of Medicaid Director John McCarthy said Medicaid expansion was necessary to serve Ohio’s needy.
McCarthy publicly threatened to bankrupt the entire Ohio Medicaid program if the Controlling Board refused to appropriate the money.
Controlling Board President Randy Cole — who was appointed by Kasich — repeatedly steered the panel’s conversation away from concerns about Medicaid expansion’s long-term costs and sustainability. No testimony opposing the expansion was heard.
Kasich told New Hampshire voters last week that his latest budget continued Medicaid expansion “without one single objection.”
Republican State Rep. Nino Vitale told Watchdog.org he was one of several legislators to protest inclusion of the expansion in Ohio’s 2016-17 budget. Vitale spoke against the policy on the House floor before voting against the budget. Three other Republicans in the General Assembly joined him. All four cited the Medicaid expansion as a specific reason for their votes, and several lawmakers voted for the budget only after voicing opposition to the expansion.
Since taking effect in January 2014, Kasich’s Medicaid expansion has enrolled 650,000 people and has cost federal taxpayers $6.4 billion.
The Kasich campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
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