Expanding Health Coverage for Ohioans

Since its creation in 1965, Medicaid – a joint federal and state program – has provided low-cost health insurance to Ohio’s most vulnerable, including the elderly, physically disabled, and children. Beginning in 2014, the health law gave each state the opportunity to expand its Medicaid program to cover working families and individuals with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. Thanks to Ohio’s decision to expand Medicaid, more than 2.8 million Ohioans now have health insurance. But that health coverage is being threatened. If the Ohio legislature doesn’t agree to include Medicaid expansion in its budget this June, more than 450,000 Ohioans could immediately lose their health care coverage and Ohio could miss out on more than $2.5 billion each year in federal funds.

Medicaid expansion comes at a low cost to Ohio. For states that opted-in, beginning in 2014, the government began paying 100 percent of the costs for newly-eligible individuals. Ohio won’t pay a dime for the expanded program until 2017 – at which point the federal share will never fall to less than 90 percent of the costs. Because the federal share of the costs of the expanded Medicaid program is so generous, it costs states less to cover newly-eligible individuals than it does to cover those individuals who sign up for Medicaid under traditional standards.

Already, Ohio has saved $350 million because of Medicaid expansion and we’re on track to save even more. We can’t afford to let this program disappear.

When people don’t have health insurance, we all end up paying for their medical costs. Without the preventive care covered by health insurance, low-income Ohioans can face expensive emergency room visits that they can’t afford to pay. The cost of this care is usually passed on to taxpayers in the form of a “hidden tax” that costs Ohioans $2.3 billion every year – approximately $1,000 per insured family. Expanded Medicaid coverage helps reduce this burden on insured Ohioans while keeping healthcare affordable, saving lives, and saving money.

We all benefit from expanding health coverage to those that need it most and I urge the Ohio state legislature to include Medicaid expansion in the budget.

We should be helping Ohioans gain health care – not cutting them off.

Sincerely,

Sherrod Brown
U.S. Senator