Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Health budget praised

Medicaid expansion in Ohio covers
around 700,000 Ohioans, and Gov. Kasich's new biennial
budget keeps it in place. (Pixabay)
By Mary Kuhlman
Ohio News Connection

Ohio lawmakers will soon begin discussions on Governor John Kasich's new two-year budget proposal, and amid the hundreds of pages of details are what some call "important investments" in health and human services. One of the most notable is the continued funding of Medicaid expansion, which extended coverage to around 700,000 Ohioans.

Tara Britton, the director of public policy and advocacy for the Center for Community Solutions, says Medicaid expansion needs continued support, but there are concerns about the possibility of adding a monthly premium that could affect about 150,000 people.

"Premiums have been proposed for certain parts of Medicaid population, between 100 and 138 percent of federal poverty level," she said. "We always have concerns there around, are folks able to keep their access to coverage and access to care when premiums are imposed?"

The proposal does not include a backup should states lose Medicaid expansion funding if Congress repeals the Affordable Care Act.

Britton adds the Kasich administration should also be commended for continued investment in mental health and addiction, including prevention, increased residential services and addressing the opiate crisis.

The budget proposal also expands Medicaid Managed-Care plans to Ohioans living in long-term care facilities, and changes the Medicaid Managed-Care Tax, a sales tax that doesn't conform to federal regulations. Instead, Kasich is calling for a tax on health-insurance companies. And Britton says local governments will lose out on that tax revenue.

"We still don't know how exactly that's going to impact local governments," she added. "They had been benefiting from the sales tax up to this point, and we'll have more questions around this going forward and lots of things there to still work out."

Kasich's budget blueprint features nearly $67 billion in spending over the two years beginning July 1st, it's about $4.3 billion less than the previous biennium.

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