Ohio Senate President Keith Faber (R-Celina) confirmed during an April 24 press conference that he doesn't expect the Senate to put the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) Medicaid expansion back in the state's biennial budget. Instead, Sen. Faber explained that the Senate will develop separate Medicaid reform legislation in coordination with the Ohio House.
"Now, it goes without saying, on Medicaid you need two chambers to move a bill, and the House has indicated they simply don't have the votes to get Medicaid expansion done in the budget," Faber said. "Therefore, I do not believe Medicaid expansion is on the table as it relates to this legislation, the budget."
A floor amendment added to House Bill 59 (HB 59), the budget passed in the House on April 18, calls for the legislature to work with Governor John Kasich's administration on a Medicaid reform package after reviewing their options more closely over the summer. Contrary to reports from the legacy press, the amendment was written specifically to prevent Ohio from adopting the PPACA Medicaid expansion.
Later in his remarks, Sen. Faber reiterated, "Let me say this clearly: I don't think Medicaid expansion is possible in the current budget."
"That's not to say we're ending the debate on Medicaid reform," Faber continued, explaining that Medicaid Finance Subcommittee chair Sen. Dave Burke (R-Marysville) would "open up a working group that will explore all sides of Medicaid reform, and see if we can reach a consensus."
"The House has also indicated they intend to explore reform in a separate, standalone bill," Faber said. "I had a great conversation with Speaker Batchelder yesterday where he relayed some of the progress they have already made in this effort, and asked us to let the House continue to do the work on this as a standalone bill."
"We are willing to work with the House as our partners with the governor, and we, too, are going to be having a Medicaid reform work group who will work in concert with the House and the governor."
Any Medicaid reform introduced in the House as a result of the HB 59 amendment must, based on the language approved in the House, "Lower net state and federal costs for the Medicaid program" and "Reduce the number of individuals who enroll in Medicaid over time."
Outright adoption of the PPACA Medicaid expansion would do none of the above, and no "private option" Medicaid expansion yet discussed would lower net state or federal costs for the entitlement program.
"I've asked Dave Burke to chair that effort, and I have members on all sides of Medicaid reform. They simply want more information," Faber said. "They want to know the consequences, both short- and long-term, of making a commitment with the federal government. They want to know what the ongoing conversation, ongoing liabilities, from both the administration and the federal government will be."
Time is not on the side of PPACA Medicaid expansion proponents, who have relentlessly misrepresented the results of expanding or failing to expand the program.
For the past several months, the Kasich administration, Ohio Hospital Association, and progressive activists have hammered false, emotional talking points in the hope of pressuring the Republican-controlled Ohio General Assembly into accepting a major component of President Obama's foundering 2010 health law.
"I do believe Medicaid reform is possible through the process that the House, and the administration, and now the Senate are going to engage in," Sen. Faber concluded before transitioning to another topic.
"What that reform will mean will be dependent in large part on the flexibility the federal government agrees to give us, and the initiatives and ingenuity our members and the administration and Director Moody can come up with. That may include adding more people to the Medicaid system, but it has to include flexibility to perform and frankly, transform a system that works better for Ohioans."
This story originally appeared at Media Trackers Ohio.