Ohio Senate wants to freeze new enrollment in expanded Medicaid program

Ohio Senate wants to freeze new enrollment in expanded Medicaid program

The state would freeze new enrollment in the expanded Medicaid program starting on July 1, 2018 under state budget amendments accepted Tuesday by the Ohio Senate Finance Committee.

“I think the amendment reflects a difference between the Republicans and Democrats, where the Republicans want to deny people health care coverage,” said freeze opponent, State Sen. Michael J. Skindell, D-Lakewood, the ranking minority member of the committee.

RELATED: Medicaid coverage for 715K Ohioans hangs in balance as debate rages

The committee also approved an amendment limiting the state Controlling Board’s ability to authorize a “significant expenditure” that has not been approved by the legislature, a vote apparently related to the way Medicaid was expanded in Ohio.

Ohio Governor John Kasich sidestepped the legislature in 2013 by using a Controlling Board vote to expand Medicaid, giving coverage to 715,000 low-income Ohioans under the provisions of the federal Affordable Care Act. The change took effect Jan. 1, 2014.

Kaisch declined to comment directly on the Senate’s proposed changes to Medicaid and the Controlling Board’s authority.

“We have a long way to go. The Senate has done a very good job in terms of fiscal stability, which I’m most concerned about,” Kasich said on Monday. “The most important thing is that we have fiscal stability because fiscal stability puts us in a position to grow jobs.”

Ohio House Majority Floor Leader Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, said the legislature should wait to see what the federal government does with Medicaid expansion before stopping people from enrolling.

“I don’t think denying new enrollment is necessarily a good idea,” Seitz said. “That is still premature.”

State Sen. Robert Hackett, R-London, said he supports Medicaid reform and will vote for the budget that emerges from committee even though he hasn’t decided if he supports a freeze.

“You can see we are a very conservative caucus. Some of us wanted to wait until we see what comes down from Washington. Some of us wanted to say we want to send a message to Washington,” said Hackett, who is not on the finance committee. “Ohio can’t afford to pay for everybody who is on Medicaid expansion.”

Currently the federal government pays 90 percent of the cost of the expansion but the U.S. House-passed American Health Care Act cuts Medicaid funding. Republican leaders in the U.S. Senate are working on their version of health care reform behind closed doors so it is unknown what their plans are for Medicaid.

RELATED: State budget targets new tax on jukeboxes, sunscreen in schools

The Senate is expected to vote on Wednesday on a $130 billion, two-year budget proposal. On Tuesday the finance committee accepted 150 amendments to the budget put together by Republican leaders.

Democrats, who are in the minority, submitted about 40 proposed amendments during the committee meeting and nearly all of them were tabled as Republicans outnumber Democrats on the committee and in the Senate.

Details of the Republican amendments were not available but a summary of them was provided to the committee.

OTHER BUDGET HIGHLIGHTS

Among the amendments accepted by the finance committee are those that:

- Revise the distance of wind turbine setbacks on wind farms.

- Increase funding for early childhood education by $2.5 million.

- Establish a procedure for the legislature to review the efficiency of administrative agencies.

- Require criminal background checks for employment at medical marijuana related businesses.

- Allow bingo to be played for money by residents of Ohio’s two veterans’ home.

- Require that driver’s education programs include training on the danger of using illegal drugs, prescription medication or alcohol while driving.

- Establish a committee to study the inclusion of nursing facility services and home and community-based waiver services into Medicaid managed care.

- Removes a provision related to maximum Medicaid rates for durable medical equipment.

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