Dispatch Daydreams About Gov. Kasich Forcing Medicaid Expansion

John Kasich
Ohio Governor John Kasich (R)

Columbus Dispatch reporter Jim Siegel speculated that Governor John Kasich could pressure conservative legislators by unilaterally expanding Medicaid eligibility in an October 8 DispatchPolitics.com story titled, “Will lawmakers be pushed into Medicaid expansion?”

Siegel explained that Ohio Senate President Keith Faber (R-Celina) “had an interesting comment” about the possibility that Gov. Kasich could expand Medicaid in compliance with Obamacare and then ask the state Controlling Board to appropriate the resulting new Obamacare funds.

After opining that “the better solution would be a legislative option, but the governor does have that authority,” Sen. Faber said that if Kasich expands Medicaid and the Controlling Board refuses to appropriate Obamacare funding, Ohio’s Medicaid program “goes bankrupt.”

“So if the governor pushes ahead with an executive order,” Siegel wondered, “could GOP legislative leaders who have thus far resisted expansion argue that they are being forced to go along – or else bankrupt a system that serves 2.4 million Ohioans?”

Note how this question was framed, as if Jim Siegel was sitting in a strategy session with Republican legislators grasping for any excuse to grow government over the opposition of conservative voters.

Considering that reporters and editors at the Dispatch have worked for the past eight months to pressure the Ohio General Assembly into adopting the Obamacare Medicaid expansion, there is little doubt the Dispatch will push this narrative if Gov. Kasich decides to circumvent the standard legislative process.

Of course, if Gov. Kasich can write an executive order to expand Medicaid, he can just as easily write an executive order undoing the expansion. But as far as the Dispatch is concerned, expanding Medicaid is obviously the right thing to do.

The Dispatch editors have made it abundantly clear they view conservatives as extremists who must be cajoled and corralled into doing what’s right. If that means pretending the Obamacare Medicaid expansion is the only way to keep Ohio’s Medicaid program from going bankrupt, that’s a lie well within the bounds of acceptability at The Columbus Dispatch.

The remainder of Siegel’s October 8 story consisted of speculation about specific Controlling Board members’ votes, as well as a mention of Medicaid reform legislation the Senate is expected to introduce this week.

Another issue the Dispatch has not explored — and will gloss over until the Kasich Administration feeds the paper talking points conducive to the desired outcome — is whether the Ohio Revised Code (ORC) empowers the Controlling Board to appropriate billions in Obamacare funding which the General Assembly has not acted to obtain.

“The controlling board shall take no action which does not carry out the legislative intent of the general assembly regarding program goals and levels of support of state agencies as expressed in the prevailing appropriation acts of the general assembly,” ORC 127.17 dictates.

This appears to be a very cut-and-dry issue: the Controlling Board can only carry out the intent of the General Assembly.

In a September 27 Dispatch story about Kasich potentially using the Controlling Board to implement the Obamacare expansion, Siegel actually quoted Maurice Thompson of the libertarian 1851 Center for Constitutional Law.

“You’ve got really good case law saying that the legislature makes major policy in Ohio,” Thompson said. Siegel even quoted Controlling Board members expressing opposition to using the Controlling Board to appropriate Obamacare funding.

Just two days later, the Dispatch editorial board called on Gov. Kasich to use an executive order and the Controlling Board to enact the Obamacare Medicaid expansion they have stridently supported since January.

“The governor should present his plan to the board and the board should approve it,” the editors wrote.

“Politically, ethically, medically and financially, it is a win for everyone in Ohio, except for the small cabal of recalcitrant lawmakers who would rather put politics ahead of the health needs of thousands of disadvantaged Ohioans,” they added.