Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Controlling Board membership may be altered to provide okay for Medicaid expansion

It looks like Gov. John Kasich will get his Medicaid expansion approved by the Controlling Board.

I previously shared with you his plans to bypass the Ohio General Assembly, which had removed the expansion from prior bills and is still debating the issue.

Last week, the Department of Medicaid submitted a request to the panel seeking authorization to spend federal funds totaling $500,000 million in FY14 and $2 billion in FY15 to extend the program to cover citizens up to 138% of the federal poverty level, as originally proposed by Gov. John Kasich in his biennium budget bill.

The item is scheduled for the Controlling Board's meeting on Oct. 21.

The Controlling Board is a 7-member body comprised of:

  • The Director of Budget and Management, or designee (the President of the Board)
  • The Chair of the Finance and Appropriations Committee of the House of Representatives
  • The Chair of the Finance Committee of the Senate
  • Two members of the House appointed by the Speaker of the House, one from the majority party and one from the minority party
  • Two members of the Senate appointed by the President of the Senate, one from the majority party and one from the minority party

In order for the expansion to be approved, at least one Republican would need to vote in favor of it. The two House Republicans have previously expressed opposition to the plan, but the two Republican Senators have been silent on the matter.

Today Gongwer Ohio (subscription may be required) reported that House Speaker Bill Batchelder (R-Medina) "plans to alter his chamber's membership on the panel prior to next Monday's meeting and will seat at least one member that will give the go-ahead to the governor's plan."

Rep. Ron Amstutz expressed his displeasure with the governor's Controlling Board move last week. Rep. Cliff Rosenberger said he would vote against expansion at the Controlling Board, and told Gongwer he hadn't heard of any plans to replace him on the panel.

From Gongwer:

Rep. Rosenberger said he'd prefer to continue to debate the policy through the full legislature but added that he has been on record as opposing a straight expansion and instead prefers the "reform" approach embodied in various proposals, including the bill (SB 208*) introduced last week by Sen. David Burke (R-Marysville). (See Gongwer Ohio Report, October 10, 2013)

"There's an opportunity for members of the General Assembly to still hear those options," he said, adding that he's concerns about the impact of pushing the expansion through the board versus the legislature.

"I would be a 'no' vote on the Controlling Board on the issue," Rep. Rosenberger said.

While Speaker Batchelder has been a staunch opponent to expansion, as it was part of the vilified "Obamacare" package, swapping out his reluctant Controlling Board members could prove to be politically expedient as it would provide cover to some of his caucus members who support expansion.

A Controlling Board vote averts putting those members on record for where they stand on separate legislation, thus protecting them from potential primary challenges from the right. Meanwhile, he's also boosting the policy aims of his fellow Republican governor, whose name is being bandied about as a presidential candidate in 2016.

Also a matter of conventional wisdom: Gov. Kasich wouldn't have scheduled a Controlling Board item if he wasn't assured of the votes.

Senate President Keith Faber (R-Celina) said in an interview Tuesday that his caucus is aware of his opposition to expansion, however he has told his members on the panel - Sen. Bill Coley (R-Liberty Twp.) and Sen. Chris Widener (R-Springfield) - to vote their conscience and their districts.

Nevertheless, he also said he doesn't view the proposal before the board to be the actual "expansion," per se. That would come through an executive order from the governor, he said. The Controlling Board agenda item would merely authorize the transfer of funds.
Kasich has been criticized by conservatives in the state for his plan to expand Medicaid. Here is guest post that details the 'myths' associated with the expansion, as promoted by the Kasich administration talking points on the plan.

Others, including State Rep. Barbara Sears, left-leaning groups and many Democrats, support the expansion of the government program.

Had this been Democrats planning to replace board members in order to provide a favorable vote for their governor, I'm sure the Republican Party would be having a conniption. As it's a Republican governor, expect the party to stand behind their man, regardless of party principles.

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