How Ohio Health Centers are Pushing for Medicaid Expansion

Guest blog post by Julie DiRossi-King, Director of Policy & Public Affairs, Ohio Association of Community Health Centers

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) seeks to have state Medicaid programs cover all individuals under the age of 65 with incomes below 133% FPL (plus a 5% income disregard). Day in and day out, Ohio’s Community Health Centers see the tremendous need for greater health care coverage across our state. Expanded Medicaid eligibility levels are directly associated with the enhanced ability of safety net providers like Community Health Centers to invest in capacity, increase access and better meet the needs of patients and our communities. If fully implemented by the states, Medicaid expansion will enable Health Centers to reach approximately 19.8 million new patients nationwide. Conversely, without the Medicaid expansion, Health Centers’ new patient care capacity would be reduced by nearly 27 percent, a 5.3 million drop in new patients served.

The Ohio Association of Community Health Centers (OACHC) continues to actively reach out and meet with stakeholders around an Ohio Medicaid expansion, including other providers, payers, philanthropic community, advocates, religious leaders, and business communities. We also continue to meet with members of the General Assembly while keeping in close contact with the Kasich Administration. Click here to see OACHC’s letter to the Governor. While optimistic that when the Governor rolls out his budget this Monday, February 4th, it will include a Medicaid expansion (possibly with certain “protections”), we must be ready for the next leg of the marathon to start, and folks it’s a steep one! [Note: See UPDATE below] It is imperative that all Health Center Advocates be ready to continuously act and be engaged with their legislators and their local media outlets too. To that end, OACHC has been and continues to be thrilled with the press many Ohio CHCs have generated locally. Our hats go off to them for their collective efforts with both media, and in making the time to come to the Statehouse to participate in one of the seven regional Medicaid expansion coalition Lobby Days, and educate elected officials firsthand on what Medicaid expansion means to their Health Center, patients, community – i.e their legislative districts!

Also, the Ohio Medicaid Expansion Study, a partnership between the Health Policy Institute of Ohio the Ohio State University, Regional Economic Models, Inc., and the Urban Institute, recently released its preliminary findings on the impact of potentially expanding eligibility for Medicaid in Ohio. A summary of the findings can be downloaded here. And click here to see OACHC’s press statement on its release. The study’s main take-a-way? Medicaid expansion in Ohio is a win and net gain for Ohio’s bottom line for the next 8 years and thereafter, according to projections, a wash or budget neutral…and importantly, never a loss! For a complete listing of Medicaid expansion articles, headlines, letters to the Editor, FAQs and other great resources including this Study, check out the statewide coalition on Medicaid Expansion website – Ohio Alliance for Health Transformation.

This is as much a policy discussion as it is a political discussion here in the Buckeye state – all politics are local – and strong Health Center participation goes a long way in addressing both.

UPDATE: 2/4/2013 5:02pm Eastern Time

Governor Kasich released his budget blueprint for SFYs 14-15 earlier this afternoon (2.4.13) – referred to by Kasich as his Ohio’s Jobs Budget 2.0. On behalf of OACHC, I applaud Governor Kasich’s leadership to provide health care coverage and services for more Ohioans through an Ohio Medicaid Expansion! This is an essential part of assuring better community health, as well as improved fiscal health for our state. Click here to view OACHC’s news release.

Because the actual bill has yet to be released, and the devil is always in the details, it is absolutely imperative each Health Center be engaged throughout the entire state budget process this year. In a three thousand plus page piece of legislation, anything and everything is ALWAYS on the table, and if we aren’t also at the table to advocate for policies important to Ohio’s Health Centers, then we might as well be on the menu!

With that said, months and months ago when we started this process with the Administration on Medicaid expansion, it was an uphill battle and a BIG lift. And because of that, today we celebrate its inclusion in the Governor’s budget proposal!

— Julie DiRossi-King

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