After contentious debate and tricky legislative maneuvering, Ohio became the 25th state to accept Medicaid expansion funds from the federal government Monday.
Acceptance of the funds was shepherded through by Ohio’s fiscally conservative Republican governor John Kasich against the will of his own party. The move represents a key symbolic victory for the Affordable Care Act at a time when the Obama administration has come under harsh scrutiny over how the rollout of the new law has been handled. Ohio is only the eighth state controlled by Republican governors to accept the money—the others are New Mexico, Nevada, North Dakota, New Jersey, Iowa, Arizona, and Michigan.
To move Ohio’s acceptance of Medicaid expansion forward, Kasich, who is up for re-election next year, went around the state’s GOP-controlled legislature, which voted against accepting the funds last spring. Instead, he enraged conservatives by delegating the responsibility to a seven-member “Controlling Board” tasked with reconciling the state budget with changes in federal funding throughout the year. The board voted 5-2 to accept federal funds to expand Medicaid, a wider than expected margin. Conservatives say Kasich illegally circumvented the legislature’s authority and lawsuits challenging the move are expected, Politico reports.
If Ohio’s Medicaid expansion survives legal challenges, the state’s Office of Health Transformation expects 275,000 uninsured Ohioans to be eligible for coverage under the program, The Plain Dealer reports.