Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Ohio's Kasich 5th GOP governor to OK Medicaid expansion; he, others cite rural hospitals' need

Several Republican governors have decided to expand Medicaid under federal health-care reform, saying their conservative principles were outweighed by a need to protect their state's rural hospitals and low-income people. Yesterday, the governor of one of the biggest states got on the bandwagon.

John Kasich of Ohio joined Jan Brewer of Arizona, Brian Sandoval of Nevada, Susana Martinez of New Mexico and Jack Dalrymple of North Dakota in saying they will take heavy federal subsidies to expand the program to households with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty threshold.

UPDATE, Feb. 8: "Each of those seemed special cases: North Dakota is flush from its oil and gas boom, and Nevada and New Mexico are increasingly blue-leaning states with Democratic-controlled legislatures. Arizona is different," Ron Brownstein writes in the National Journal. He notes that Brewer said taking the federal money will “protect rural and safety-net hospitals” from excessive costs for uncompensated care; create “thousands of jobs” and cover many people now uninsured.

While Kasich is not an "Obamacare" supporter, he said expanding Medicaid “makes great sense for Ohio” because it would save $235 million over the next two years and free about $100 million in local funds for mental-health and addiction services, reports The Columbus Dispatch.

Kasich said the decision could extend health coverage to as many as 578,000 uninsured Ohio residents, and could keep everyone else’s health insurance premiums down because there won’t be so many uninsured people going to emergency rooms for their medical care, reports David Nather of Politico.

Kasich emphasized that he would like to see the 2010 law repealed, but the federal money it would pump into the state — about $13 billion over the next seven years — was too much to pass up, reports Stateline. The federal government will pay the full cost of expansion through 2016; then  states will have to pitch in, rising to a limit of 10 percent by 2020.

Brewer likewise said it doesn't make sense for Arizona to pass up federal dollars, reports Howard Fischer of the Arizona Daily Sun. "We will protect rural and safety-net hospitals from being pushed to the brink by growing their cost in caring for the uninsured," Brewer said. She also said the expansion will create enormous economic benefit, inject $2 billion into the Arizona economy, save and create thousands of jobs and provide health care to hundreds of thousands of low-income individuals, reports Fischer.

Brewer said going along with expansion will save Arizona money because the costs of providing care to the uninsured are not simply absorbed by hospitals but passed along through increased insurance premiums. Supporters of the expansion hope the five Republicans' decisions will prompt more GOP governors to follow suit. Twenty governors from both political parties are still undecided. (Read more)

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