Backers of Medicaid expansion are taking their fight to a new level. As Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles reports, those who want the state to extend health care coverage to low income Ohioans are preparing for a ballot issue if necessary.
Medicaid expansion advocates say time is running out. They say Ohio lawmakers need to act soon to get the state on board with Medicaid expansion in the new federal health care plan. Jon Allison says the groups in his coalition have been working with lawmakers, trying to convince them to adopt the expansion plan but so far, that’s not working.
Allison - We will continue to push for legislative approval this calendar year but if that doesn’t happen, we need to have a plan B
That plan B is a process that would take the issue before voters in November of next year. Allison says his group is starting the process that will give lawmakers time to pass Medicaid expansion during the next four months. But if they don’t, Allison says his group will collect the additional petition signatures needed to put it on the ballot. However, Allison is clear that he would prefer that didn’t happen.
Allison – Let’s face facts. Getting voter approval for Medicaid expansion in November 2014 is not ideal. Practically speaking, waiting until late 2014 for approval means Ohio will lose out on one year’s worth of one hundred percent federal funding for expansion. But more importantly, most importantly, more than 275 thousand Ohioans indeed will lose out on the opportunity to have better lives for themselves and their families.
But tea party activist Tom Zawistowski is hoping Ohio lawmakers will not pass Medicaid expansion.
Zawistoski - Medicaid expansion is basically the tip of the spear of Obamacare. And it’s the Hotel California. Once you check in, you can’t check out. And if you look at anyone in the national level, they say Obamacare is going to destroy our economy and in my opinion, it’s going to destroy our medical system.
Zawistowski says if Medicaid expansion advocates do take this issue to the ballot next year, he’s not worried that it will hurt conservative candidates.
Zawistowski – You are already looking at a very strong possibility of a gay marriage ballot issue. You are looking at a strong possibility of a legalizing marijuana issue. And you are looking at Medicaid expansion and even the internet cafes are looking to do that. And yea, what will that do to the voter turnout where, as you know, in Gubernatorial years, last time when John Kasich ran against Strickland, only 49% of registered voters turned out and Governor Kasich received 49%of the 49%. So only 23.5% of the people in Ohio elected John Kasich as Governor. So will these issues drive more people? It may work both ways.
Governor Kasich’s spokesman, Rob Nichols, says the Governor has confidence that legislative leaders will somehow expand Medicaid. Nichols says Kasich considers supports of this petition to be fellow travelers and appreciates their ongoing efforts.