COLUMBUS — Gov. John Kasich continues to campaign around the country claiming to be a “moderate” and “compassionate” Republican, at the same time that his administration moves to implement a plan that will kick hundreds of thousands of Ohioans off of their current health coverage.
[READ THE FULL TEXT OF THE PROPOSAL HERE]
“George Orwell would admire the chutzpah of naming a plan that will result in hundreds of thousands of Ohioans losing their insurance coverage the ‘Healthy Ohio’ plan,” said Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper. “The ‘Healthy Ohio’ plan and health coverage snatched away from vulnerable women, children and their families will be Governor Kasich’s legacy. Even though Governor Kasich is ducking responsibility for ‘Healthy Ohio,’ the buck stops with him. He signed the budget into law that authorizes ‘Healthy Ohio.’ He owns it.”
The Kasich administration estimates from 126,000 to 140,000 will lose Medicaid coverage every year of the “Healthy Ohio” plan. A spokesman for the administration told the Toledo Blade, “This is not our proposal. We are required by law to do this.” However, the proposal was part of House Bill 64, the state budget bill that Kasich signed into law on June 30, 2015.
The Center for Community Solutions had called on Kasich to use his line-item veto on ‘Healthy Ohio,’ but Kasich chose not to do so.
In their testimony on the “Healthy Ohio” plan, the center said, “Healthy Ohio as constructed would likely result in the broad disenrollment of currently covered beneficiaries through a set of complicated, punitive and errantly applied cost-sharing policies focused on a population largely unable to meet the financial and logistical requirements of the proposal, including vulnerable populations such as foster children and women with cancer.”
“Healthy Ohio” still awaits federal approval as a Medicaid waiver proposal.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown calls plan to make Medicaid
recipients pay ‘politics at its worst’
In a conference call with reporters, Brown said the proposal – dubbed the “Healthy Ohio” program – will actually undercut health care for hundreds of thousands of people if it is approved by federal regulators.
“This is politics at its worst,” Brown said. “Think about it – the Healthy Ohio program. How cynical is that? It would make it harder for Ohioans to afford and access care.”
The Democratic senator’s broadside on the proposal comes a day before the state holds its first public hearing on the plan in Columbus. The proposal would require all non-disabled adults with income to make a monthly payment into a health savings account to help pay for the cost of their care. Failure to make the payment would result in a loss of coverage.
The payment would be 2 percent of a person’s income, capped at no more than $99 annually, or $8.25 a month. However, health care providers — who have a business incentive to get people covered — can also help to make those contributions, further reducing the financial burden on Medicaid recipients.
Will the proposal to make Medicaid recipients pay actually increase costs for everyone else? Give us your thoughts in the comments.
State Rep. Jim Butler, one of the architects of the proposal in Ohio’s legislature, said it is Brown who is playing politics with Medicaid and ignoring key details of the plan to improve it.
Butler said it is modeled after a Medicaid program in Indiana that was approved by the Obama administration. He pointed to survey data from that program indicating that participants who stuck with it reported using preventive services at much higher rates; the participants also reported a much lower reliance on the emergency room to get care, which helps to reduce costs.
“The most important thing is to incentivize proper care and engender a cost consciousness” in Medicaid recipients, Butler said. “Those are all important parts of empowering the patient to have the best care and have the knowledge to make the best decisions in consultation with their doctors.”
But Brown argued the plan would claw back a lot of the gains made when Gov. John Kasich expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, to more than 600,000 Ohioans.
Brown said the proposal would effectively throw hundreds of thousands of people off the Medicaid rolls, and increase uncompensated care costs that are borne by everyone.
Before passage of the Affordable Care Act, he said, health care providers in Ohio faced up to $2.3 billion dollars of uncompensated care each year for people who could not pay, often resulting in a “hidden tax” on privately insured people of about $1,000 a year per insured family.
“This could bring that hidden tax back,” Brown said. “This healthy Ohio plan kicks people off health care plans. And when we kick people off their health care plans, costs rise for everyone.”
Butler said no one would be thrown off Medicaid, and that the number of people expected to drop out because of the new program requirements would be far fewer than Brown is suggesting.
He also said anyone who fails to make their payments could pay their balance and re-enroll if they get sick. “I think Sherrod Brown is the one playing politics with this,” Butler said. “And it’s not something we should be playing politics with. It’s very serious and important.”
A state document outlining the proposal indicates it would result in between 125,000 and 140,000 people dropping their insurance. The document also indicates it would save the state about $1 billion in Medicaid costs over the first five years of its implementation.
Prospects for federal approval remain uncertain, and even the Kasich administration has raised questions about its viability in Washington. Ohio’s proposal is expected to be filed with the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) by June 30. CMS could approve or reject the proposal in its entirety, or jettison pieces it disagrees with, while keeping others.
Brown encouraged the public to submit comments on the plan and said he intends to lobby CMS to reject it completely. “This change is not a done deal,” he said. “I’m encouraging people to make their voices heard.”