John Kasich’s presidential campaign arrived in Maryland minus the pretense that he would fully repeal the 2010 health care overhaul popularly known as Obamacare.
The Ohio governor, a Republican, says he opposes the law despite embracing its optional expansion of Medicaid to working-age adults with no kids and no disabilities.
His message went largely unchallenged by oppontents and the campaign press corps early on, but as other candidates have dropped out Kasich has faced more questions about how he would repeal Obamacare after putting 670,000 Ohioans on welfare under the law’s Medicaid expansion.
“I would take some of the federal resources, combine it with Medicaid, which I would send back to the states, let the states create their own way of covering the working poor so millions of Americans don’t lose health insurance,” Kasich said during an April 14 MSNBC appearance.
And at a Tuesday town hall in Annapolis, Kasich gave his most strident defense yet of preserving the Medicaid expansion — which is responsible for roughly 75 percent of Obamacare enrollment — permanently.
Replying to a question about how he would provide health care to the poor, Kasich told a story about a trip to Maine, where he talked with a resident who said she hated Republican Gov. Paul LePage because he wanted to take away her health care. LePage opposes Obamacare, and Maine has not expanded Medicaid.
Kasich warned it would be politically untenable to “get rid of the Obamacare” if doing so “throws tens of millions of people” off of Medicaid, and he also made it clear he supports Obamacare’s requirement that insurers cover preexisting health conditions.
In Ohio alone, Obamacare expansion has already cost federal taxpayers $7.5 billion. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and Congressional Research Service have both confirmed that federal deficit spending goes up with each state that expands Medicaid.
Before he was asked at the Annapolis campaign stop about his stance on subsidized health insurance for the poor, Kasich volunteered several of his standard Obamacare expansion talking points while lauding his own economic record in Ohio.
“We’re now up 420,000 private-sector jobs, we went from $8 billion in the hole to $2 billion in the black, our credit is great, and then the mentally ill, the drug-addicted, the working poor — all given a chance,” Kasich said.
“Just like if a mom and dad do better, kids do better: When the economy does better we can help a lot of people who we traditionally don’t help,” Kasich added.
Year-over-year, Ohio’s private-sector job growth has trailed the national average since November 2012.
Regardless of Ohio’s economic performance, Obamacare expansion is paid for with new federal deficit spending. The welfare program has no work requirements, and is not targeted at drug addicts or the mentally ill, as Kasich implies.
Through March, Ohio’s Obamacare expansion cost 78 percent more than Kasich said it would. Before Kasich unilaterally expanded Medicaid, critics warned expansion would cost more than expected and would be politically difficult to roll back.
The governor has treated his presidential campaign as an Obamacare expansion promo tour, telling Republican primary voters it’s a life-saving moral and fiscal imperative to put able-bodied, working-age, childless adults on Medicaid.
Kasich — fourth in the delegate count with only three candidates still in the race — is polling at 26.3 percent in the RealClearPolitics average of polls for Maryland’s April 26 Republican primary, almost 15 points behind reality TV star and real estate developer Donald Trump and in a virtual dead-heat with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
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