Ohio enrollment of 450,000-plus under Medicaid expansion in 2014 outpaces state projections

Government And Institutions Associated Press

The number of Ohioans enrolling in Medicaid under an expansion of the taxpayer-funded program has topped state projections during the first year.

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The Dayton Daily News (http://bit.ly/13GJJWr ) reports that state officials had estimated 377,000 newly eligible residents would sign up by next summer, and more than 450,000 had done so as of November. That's about 20 percent more than the projection.

The state moved forward last fall with extending Medicaid eligibility to cover thousands more people under President Barack Obama's federal health overhaul. Coverage took effect last January.

Republican Gov. John Kasich pushed for the Medicaid expansion, overcoming opposition from fellow Republicans in the legislature.

"When we were debating whether or not to expand Medicaid in Ohio, some lawmakers were suggesting that the folks who were uninsured were choosing to be uninsured and really didn't want health insurance," said Trey Daly, Ohio director for Enroll America, a nonprofit that helps people sign up. "But I think this demonstrates that among the uninsured, there was a tremendous desire to have health insurance."

The expansion allows those earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level to gain coverage.

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Daly said expanding Medicaid saves the state money besides providing coverage for thousands more lower-income Ohioans with the federal government covering most of the tab, especially in the near future.

However, critics say there could be changes that would shift more of the burden to Ohio taxpayers.

"From a fiscal standpoint, any change could have a significant impact on the state," said Greg Lawson, a policy analyst with the Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions. "And some of the more rosy scenarios that people have been talking about might not be as rosy in the future."

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Information from: Dayton Daily News, http://www.daytondailynews.com