On Monday, Ohio Gov. John Kasich announced he will expand the state's Medicaid program with federal dollars, much to the chagrin of conservatives who had hoped he would have rebuffed a portion of Obamacare. Yahoo News asked Ohioans to react. Here's one perspective.
COMMENTARY | When President Obama first worked to get his health care reform legislation signed, Gov. John Kasich fought hard against it in Ohio. Here in Bellbrook, Ohio, a small, mostly conservative town of around 7,000, his stance went over well, as most of the community feared tax increases and hits to small businesses here and everywhere else.
On Monday, though, Kasich announced that he would accept federal funding for a proposed budget that will expand significantly the reach of Medicaid in the state. While some undoubtedly feel he is betraying his conservative principles, this represents both a shrewd political move and the right thing for the state.
First, this measure will help Ohio families. Kasich struggles with a perception that he does not care about his constituents, but this move helps. Indeed, according to a report by the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, by 2022, this will mean 684,000 newly eligible individuals in Ohio. This includes expanded mental health services and substance abuse programs, and more payments for hospitals that treat the uninsured.
But this is not only about helping people. Kasich's acquiescence on this point-- unlike 10 Republican governors so far-- lets him stake a position as a pragmatist. The federal government initially covers 100 percent of the costs, and goes no lower than 90 percent. By 2022, Ohio will pay $4 billion to grow the program, with the feds paying $53.3 billion. Kasich has established that the expansion will be scaled back if federal funding decreases, so he has a way out if the deal sours.
The Verdict: a Wise, Calculated Risk
This decision carries some risk to Kasich. Departing from the party line has been treacherous to many Republicans, who have lost party support for even tepid defiance. But with the party looking for ways to capture more of Middle America, this represents real leadership, helping hundreds of thousands of Ohioans with relatively low cost to the state budget. At a time calculated steps away from the strident Republican anti-Obama core, Kasich has the potential to emerge as a leader in the party.