Ohio

Kasich Administration Presents a False Choice on Medicaid Expansion

Policy

Governor John Kasich has falsely insisted that if Ohio does not expand Medicaid eligibility, federal Medicaid expansion funds for Ohio will be sent to other states. With some Ohio legislators hesitant to worsen America’s $16.5 trillion national debt, the Kasich administration has inaccurately claimed that rejecting Medicaid expansion would not prevent federal spending.

Office of Health Transformation slide

Contrary to February 14 Ohio House of Representatives testimony from the Republican governor’s staff and previous statements from Kasich himself, Ohio’s refusal to expand Medicaid eligibility as called for in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) would have no impact on other states’ PPACA Medicaid expansion funding.

Responding to questions before the House Finance and Appropriations Committee, Governor’s Office of Health Transformation Director Greg Moody defended Kasich’s decision to expand Medicaid eligibility in pursuit of billions in new DC entitlement dollars.

“Would I rather we take the money, and not spend it, and draw down the federal debt? Absolutely,” Moody said. “But that is not within my range of ability, and not within the range of a governor’s ability to do.”

Moody continued, “If we don’t spend it, it is not as if that money is going to be somehow saved. We are still paying that in our federal taxes. The question is, is it coming back to Ohio, or is it going somewhere else.”

In fact, if Ohio does not expand Medicaid, it’s exactly “as if that money is going to be somehow saved” – because it will not be spent. There is no defined pool of PPACA Medicaid expansion dollars being divvied up, but rather an open-ended promise of funding for states that comply with President Obama’s 2010 health law.

As shown above, the presentation Moody shared with House members included a warning that by refusing to expand Medicaid, the state would “not keep” $13 billion “in Ohioans’ federal tax dollars” over the next 7 years. This single bullet point is misleading in two ways.

First, the claim is deceptive because it implies the estimated $13 billion Ohio would receive for expanding Medicaid will be spent elsewhere if Ohio opts out. Second, the $13 billion figure would actually be a combination of borrowed funds and tax dollars from all 50 states.

According to the Kasich administration, no option before the General Assembly can limit PPACA’s damage to the national balance sheet. The truth, however, is that Ohio legislators can accept billions in new federal funding by implementing the PPACA Medicaid expansion, or they can prevent billions in additional deficit spending by refusing to do so.

Moody’s inaccurate testimony reiterated a claim Governor Kasich made in a February 6 RedState post. The governor wrote that without Medicaid expansion, PPACA “takes $13 billion of Ohioans’ federal tax dollars out of our state and gives it to other states—where it will go to work helping to rev up some other state’s economy instead of Ohio’s.”

An official summary of the governor’s February 4 biennial budget proposal also asserted that expanding Medicaid eligibility “avoids leaving Ohioans’ federal tax dollars on the table and keeps the federal government from simply giving them away to other states.”

“Governor Kasich is essentially saying that because other irresponsible states want to make federal deficit spending worse by expanding Medicaid, Ohio should do the same. Rejecting Medicaid expansion won’t result in ‘Ohio’ funds going elsewhere – there are no ‘Ohio’ funds, just greater federal deficit spending,” Opportunity Ohio President Matt Mayer told Media Trackers.

“Worse still, Governor Kasich is providing cover for states to chase the unsustainable promise of more federal funds,” Mayer said. “Each state that enacts Obamacare’s signature provision by expanding Medicaid will add billions of dollars to the $16.5 trillion national debt, which will ultimately require massive tax hikes, especially on Ohioans, because as the seventh-largest state we will pick up more of the national tab.”