Kasich’s Obamacare Expansion Adds to Pressure in Other States

John Kasich
Ohio Governor John Kasich (R)

Republican Governor John Kasich’s enactment of the Obamacare Medicaid expansion in Ohio has increased the pressure on lawmakers in other states to radically expand Medicaid in pursuit of new federal funding.

Kasich’s Obamacare expansion carries extra weight because he insists the policy is fiscally conservative, and has promoted it as a matter of Christian charity.

Immediately after the Ohio Controlling Board’s October 21, 2013 vote to appropriate Obamacare money for Kasich’s Medicaid expansion, Advisory Board Company ran a news story headlined, “Ohio is expanding Medicaid. Will other red states follow?

“After months of debate and roadblocks, Gov. John Kasich (R) has done what briefly appeared impossible: He’s expanded Medicaid in Ohio,” Juliette Mullin wrote.

In addition to throwing a rhetorical lifeline to Obamacare as a whole, Kasich’s actions and arguments have helped Obamacare supporters in several states wear down roadblocks to the expansion.

Keep in mind that the following examples come from a quick search of state news, as opposed to a detailed review of transcripts from debates over the Obamacare expansion in state legislatures.


Reporting on a November 2013 Medicaid expansion rally at Indiana’s state capitol, the Bloomington Herald-Times quoted a rally organizer who noted that Kasich “found a way to free up some funds and expand the program without the full cooperation of the Legislature. He said when he’s at the Pearly Gates, he will not be asked what he did to make government smaller but what he did to take care of the people in his state.”


“[Gov. Sam] Brownback should follow the lead of eight other GOP governors who expanded Medicaid,” The Wichita Eagle editorial board wrote in a November 24, 2013 column.

The Eagle editors continued with a quote from Gov. Kasich, who told The Wall Street Journal, “For me, it was an easy decision. It’s going to save lives, it’s going to help people, and you tell me what’s more important than that.”

“Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett may have been keeping an eye on his fellow Republican governor in Ohio last week as Gov. John Kasich bypassed Ohio’s Republican legislature to expand the state’s Medicaid program,” wrote a WHYY FM reporter in an October 25, 2013 story pushing Kansas to expand Medicaid.


In an October 27, 2013 opinion column for The Portsmouth Herald titled “Medicaid expanding almost everywhere but Maine,” Douglas Rooks praised the fact that Kasich “belatedly decided Medicaid expansion would be a good idea.”

Rooks noted that “Republican legislators interested in winning next year are closely studying what other GOP-led states are doing. After all, the House fell just two votes short of overriding LePage’s veto of Medicaid expansion.”

In a January 17, 2014 news story titled “Not all Republicans oppose Medicaid expansion for Maine,” a Maine Sun Journal reporter quoted a political science professor who said, “We’re seeing several cases nationally where Republican governors who were skeptical of Medicaid expansion have come to the conclusion that, with the federal money, it’s worth it to expand the program.”

“John Kasich in Ohio is a prominent recent example,” the professor said.


Last March, Montana Governor Steve Bullock (D) described Kasich as one of several governors for whom opposing Obamacare was “at their core and by and large what they were running campaigns on.”

“Now, faced with the choice of covering their citizens and creating jobs, it’s become more sensible,” Bullock said.


Regarding a November 2013 White House press call pushing the Obamacare Medicaid expansion in Nebraska, the Lincoln Journal Star reported that “Josh Earnest, White House principal deputy press secretary, emphasized that Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, recently announced his decision to expand Medicaid in his state to 270,000 uninsured residents.”

Omaha World-Herald reported that the White House spokesman said, “We’ve been very glad to see that some conservative Republican governors have put politics aside and decided to do the right thing for their constituents.”

New Hampshire

“Even some of the most conservative Republican governors across the country — Chris Christie in New Jersey, Jan Brewer in Arizona, John Kasich in Ohio and Rick Scott in Florida — have announced that they will be expanding Medicaid because of the massive benefits to their states,” New Hampshire State Sen. Sylvia Larsen (D) wrote in a June 2013 New Hampshire Union Leader op-ed.

“Gov. Kasich said that even Ronald Reagan would have supported expansion,” Larsen added, a reference to a USA Today column from Kasich promoting the Obamacare expansion.

North Carolina

In an October 23, 2013 news story, the Charlotte Observer reported that, according to one Democrat state representative, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory (R) “might be able to follow the example of Ohio Gov. John Kasich” and expand Medicaid without legislative approval.


“Recently, Republican governors in states surrounding Pennsylvania, like John Kasich of Ohio and Chris Christie of New Jersey, have agreed to accept federal dollars to expand access to Medicaid, concluding that it was a good deal for their states,” Pennsylvania State Rep. Mark Longietti wrote in a recent announcement on his Pennsylvania House website.

Quoting from Kasich’s budget plan introduced last February, Longietti wrote, “Kasich concluded: ‘This reform [Medicaid expansion] not only helps improve the health of vulnerable Ohioans and frees up local funds for better mental health and additional services, but it also helps prevent increases to health care premiums and potentially devastating impacts to local hospitals[.]'”


“Governor John Kasich expanded his state’s program in Ohio because, as he explained, ‘I believe [expanding Medicaid] is a matter of life and death,'” U.S. Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN) wrote in a February 20, 2014 letter to Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam (R).