Governor John Kasich worked with the far-left Universal Health Care Action Network of Ohio (UHCAN Ohio) to build his case for Medicaid expansion, a central piece of President Obama's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). Washington Post blogger Sarah Kliff detailed Kasich's strategy in a February 6 Wonkblog entry.
"Rather than having to convince the governor, Obamacare supporters were asked to focus their efforts on convincing businesses and legislators," Kliff explained in her story, which was titled, "How Ohio's Republican governor sold the state on expanding Medicaid."
While the Kasich administration publicly insisted no decision had been made, UHCAN Ohio Executive Director Cathy Levine "was in regular contact with the governors’ [sic] office, sharing different budget assumptions, as to ensure they would all land near the same place."
"The administration was totally transparent about how they were developing their numbers and analysis," Levine told Kliff. "We went back and forth so we could try to close those differences. They worked very hard on their end on an honest analysis of those numbers."
It turns out those numbers are built on faith in federal bureaucracy. According to UHCAN Ohio - and, as of February 4, Governor Kasich - a massive expansion of one of the nation's most costly entitlement programs will mean healthier Ohioans and an improved state economy.
Wonkblog and other liberal outlets have suggested Medicaid expansion in Ohio is now a foregone conclusion, but Kasich must convince the state legislature to join in his embrace of socialized medicine.
PPACA promises that a federal government already $16.4 trillion in debt will pay for 100 percent of states' Medicaid expansion costs for several years before tapering federal funding down to 90 percent. Medicaid itself "saves" money by paying care providers far less than private insurance does, and PPACA is written to build on this shell game with an assortment of penalties for hospitals that reject Medicaid patients.
Expanding Medicaid would distort Ohio's health care market further than existing federal subsidies and mandates already do. Rather than face this politically difficult truth, Governor Kasich reached out to a socialized medicine lobbying group for help selling a key portion of a law 66 percent of Ohio voters chose to block in November 2011.
UHCAN Ohio cheered the passage of PPACA and has fought for its full implementation.
Quoted in a January 5, 2011 story about the potential for PPACA repeal, Cathy Levine told The Columbus Dispatch, "Any Ohioan who's struggling with increasing health premiums is being helped by the Affordable Care Act."
The results of a Kaiser Family Foundation survey released September 12, 2012 showed that premiums increased dramatically in the months and years after PPACA passed.
"Health insurance premiums are rising this year for many Ohioans, and some will see larger double-digit percent increases than they've seen before, according to rate requests filed by health insurers," the Dayton Daily News reported on January 9, 2013.
The Ohio General Assembly would contribute to this trend by complying with Kasich's request to expand Medicaid, conservative health policy expert Avik Roy explained in a February 8 Forbes story.
Although President Obama carried Ohio in 2012 and Governor Kasich is up for reelection in 2014, it seems odd for the governor to partner with a progressive organization that advocates more federal mandates and subsidies. Every comment and press release from UHCAN Ohio betrays a deep misunderstanding of how markets work.
"Unlike today's insurance marketplace, which has done little to reduce health-care costs, the exchange has the potential to protect consumers by demanding that insurance companies comply with strict standards and compete on quality as well as price to sell their policies through the exchange," Levine wrote in a January 20, 2012 Dispatch editorial calling for Ohio to create a PPACA exchange.
In addition to Washington Post coverage, the Kasich administration's current allegiance to UHCAN Ohio is evidenced by a governor's office web page quoting supporters of Medicaid expansion.
"This is great news for the many Ohioans who are earning minimum wage and can't afford to pay for health care," Levine said in a UHCAN Ohio response to Kasich's February 4 announcement. "These are hard-working people who are preparing our food, caring for our children and our elderly, doing all kinds of jobs that need to be done. Our Governor knows that they deserve to be healthy."
Governor Kasich's website also quotes Ohio Consumers for Health Coverage, a UHCAN Ohio campaign backed by labor unions and other progressive activists, and Families USA, a national socialized medicine lobbying group whose research UHCAN Ohio cites regularly.
Families USA recognizes one of conservatives' biggest concerns about Kasich's decision as a cause for celebration, writing in a February 4 statement, "Now that Republican governors in Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Ohio have decided to implement the Medicaid expansion, we can expect other Republican governors to follow suit."
This story originally appeared at Media Trackers Ohio.