Ohio House Amends Budget to Study Medicaid ExpansionWednesday, April 24, 2013
Governor Kasich’s proposal to expand Medicaid is still alive. Just weeks after stripping the entire provision out of the budget bill, the House included in their final version of HB 59 an amendment that would give Republican members more time to study other options.
The amendment – offered by Rep. Barbara Sears (R-Sylvania) – stopped well short of calling for Medicaid expansion, instead tasking the Governor’s Office of Health Transformation (OHT) and Medicaid with bringing a new Medicaid reform package to the House by October 1, 2013. While allowing some latitude to explore options besides Medicaid expansion, the amendment specifically requires that the reform package lower Medicaid caseloads by promoting employment services, reduce enrollment over time, and reduce state and federal programmatic costs.
Meanwhile, Ohio Senate President Keith Faber, (R-Celina) announced on Wednesday that the Senate would not put Medicaid expansion back into the budget. Instead, he said a Senate working group would be formed to study Medicaid reform. More details are to come regarding the Senate working group.
As for the House amendment, it is worth noting that there is a circuit breaker embedded in the amendment – if the General Assembly does not enact legislation to reform Medicaid by December 31, 2013, the issue is effectively put to rest, and the Directors of OHT and Medicaid shall discontinue pursuit of any activity related to Medicaid expansion or reform.
What does this mean moving forward? In simple terms, the House heard from a broad coalition of expansion proponents including folks from industry, the medical profession, hospitals, local governments, and the mental health arena. After stripping the Governor’s Medicaid expansion proposal from the budget bill, this amendment accomplished three things – (1) it gave hope to the vociferous coalition that Medicaid expansion might still be possible, in some form or another, (2) it gave the House more time to consider options beyond Medicaid expansion, which some Republican members find simply unpalatable and fiscally irresponsible, and (3) it gave the Senate flexibility to consider Medicaid reform or expansion as it deliberates the budget bill in May and June, and then in conference committee with House members in late June.
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