Ohio House speaker: GOP seeks ways to stabilize Medicaid, help lift recipients off program

Republicans in the Ohio House are looking at ways to stabilize Medicaid and ensure recipients can lift themselves out of the taxpayer-funded program, as they grapple with how to move forward with an expansion of the health program.

Gov. John Kasich's administration extended Medicaid eligibility in 2013 to cover thousands more low-income residents, as allowed under President Barack Obama's health care law. Kasich needs legislative approval to continue to fund it after June.

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The Republican governor is expected to seek continued support of the expansion when he releases his state budget proposal on Feb. 2.

The GOP-dominated Legislature balked when Kasich sought approval in his last spending plan. The state's Controlling Board appropriated the money, not the full Legislature.

Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger told Statehouse reporters Monday that he views the Medicaid expansion debate not over whether it will be reauthorized, but in what form it will take. But he acknowledged, "There's also members of caucus still that are going to probably even be troublesome over that issue."

He said his caucus is focused on the program's long-term feasibility and ensuring the upward mobility of its beneficiaries.

"We're not talking about expansion anymore," he said. "We're talking about reauthorization."

Rosenberger, who says he would've voted against expanding Medicaid, said he is waiting to see what the governor proposes.

"I think the way we have it is it's here," he said. "What are the plans to put forward to sustain it?"

Obama's law calls for Washington to pay the full cost of the Medicaid expansion through 2016, gradually phasing down to 90 percent. The overhaul extended Medicaid eligibility to adults with annual incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level — less than $16,105 for an individual.

Roughly 451,000 Ohioans have enrolled in the extension of Medicaid.