COLUMBUS — State Sen. Stephanie Kunze represents nearly 42,000 Ohioans who live in her 16th Senate District who are covered by Medicaid, but her Republican leader, Senate President Larry Obhof continued to attack Medicaid expansion in a Facebook Live discussion Tuesday with Jim Renacci, serving as a reminder of Kunze’s own attack on the program.
“From providing key resources in the fight against the addiction crisis to supporting tens of thousands of jobs and insuring more than 700,000 Ohioans, Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act has been critical to expanding access to affordable health care for Ohioans,” said Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper. “Obhof’s comments are yet another reminder to voters in the 16th district that Kunze has also attacked Medicaid expansion.”
In the video, Obhof says, “As you know, I was not a supporter of the expansion. There was a provision in the budget immediately prior to expansion happening that would’ve prohibited it, and it got vetoed. In the last budget cycle, the Senate added a freeze on the expansion, and that got vetoed. But we have been looking at alternatives.”
In the Ohio Senate in 2017, Kunze voted for the Ohio budget that froze Medicaid expansion and sought to impose work requirements and monthly premiums. Those provisions were line-item vetoed by Republican Gov. John Kasich.
With passage of the Affordable Care Act, states could expand eligibility for Medicaid — and Kasich did just that, going against those in his own party, to provide access to health coverage through Medicaid expansion to more than 700,000 Ohioans.
- Medicaid expansion has helped a diverse group of people in Ohio — the majority of those covered are white (72 percent), male (56 percent) and less educated (58 percent with a high school diploma or less).
- As Ohio’s state government cut funding to local governments to deal with the exploding opioid epidemic, the single-biggest resource to fight the crisis has been Medicaid, which pays for about half of all medication-assisted treatment in our state.
- Medicaid provides about $650 million of the $1 billion the state spends annually on dealing with the opioid epidemic.
- More than 150,000 Ohioans with addiction or mental health disorders now have coverage through the ACA’s Medicaid expansion.
- The Ohio Hospital Association says that one-fourth of our hospitals are at risk for closure without Medicaid expansion.
Meanwhile, the ACA has helped expand health coverage for all Ohioans. The state’s uninsured rate was 11 percent in 2013 — today it’s 6 percent, lower than the national uninsured rate of 8.8 percent.
Before the Trump administration started undermining the ACA, the health care law was helping to keep costs down in Ohio, compared to other states. In 2016, premiums for benchmark plans in Ohio increased an average of 2 percent, and in some places premiums actually went down.