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Study Finds Medicaid Expansion And Reform Affordable In Ohio

State leaders continue to debate what, if anything, to do with Medicaid in light of the implementation of the new federal health care law. As Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles reports, a senate subcommittee looking at how to reform, but not necessarily expand, Medicaid is looking at its options.

Governor Kasich has called for expansion of the Medicaid program in order to deal with changes brought about by the federal affordable health care act but majority Republicans in the Ohio House and Senate are not buying that idea.  State Senator Dave Burke’s proposal calls for Medicaid reform but not Medicaid expansion.  Burke says a new study of Ohio’s Medicaid system by the Health Policy Institute of Ohio supports his bill on reforming Medicaid to curbing the costs.  He says the study shows the proposed three to four percent limit on growth of Medicaid costs would be a good way to make health care more affordable

Burke – I think it’s reasonable that the rate of growth for expenditures would be the inflationary growth.  Why would I pay more?  Do you pay more than the price at the gas pump?  So why would we pay more than the rate of growth for the costs of the services we’d be paying for.  I think that’s a reasonable goal.

But Bill Hayes, the President of the non partisan group that analyzed the Medicaid options, says the study shows something else.

Hayes – If you can maintain the growth of spending per person now than it had happened historically, that gives you the financial space if you wish to expand Medicaid and still not cost the taxpayers any more money.

That’s right.  Hayes says his study shows the state could expand Medicaid.  And there’s something else.  Hayes says his study shows that by merely providing coverage to more people could help.

Hayes – Not everyone who is uninsured qualifies for Medicaid.  Just being poor doesn’t qualify you for Medicaid.  So if you don’t have a child, it requires you to become sick enough.  And that means the state is allowing someone’s health to degrade until they got onto Medicaid.  With expansion, with that coverage, then ideally, they would not have to see their health decline, catch something earlier, fix it, stay healthier, remain productive, be able to maintain their job and not have to become as expensive as they might have otherwise been.

Democratic State Senator Capri Cafaro says the findings of this analysis prove what she’s been saying all along.  Cafaro has proposed legislation that would both reform Medicaid but also add low income Ohioans onto the system.

Cafaro – So what the Health Policy Institute of Ohio along with their colleagues at the Ohio State University basically laid out all of the substantive data and modeling that supports that basic premise in my bill – that it is possible to cover more people with less money and being able to do it in an effective way without kicking people off the system and improving outcomes and reducing costs.

Cafaro says there’s nothing left for the subcommittee to do at this point because that body can’t vote and can’t make policy changes….what she says is needed at this point.  Cafaro wants the Senate President to call the Senate Finance Committee together so it can deal with the issue.  But that’s not happening right now.  The senate Medicaid subcommittee is set to go to Cleveland next week to see how a mini Medicaid expansion project works.

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