Ohio Gov. Kasich backs Medicaid expansion in proposed budget

CLEVELAND Mon Feb 4, 2013 3:12pm EST

CLEVELAND Feb 4 (Reuters) - Ohio Gov. John Kasich said on Monday he would support an expansion of Medicaid under President Barack Obama's healthcare reform law, extending the program to hundreds of thousands of residents.

Kasich, a Republican, made his announcement as part of a press briefing on his $63.3 billion 2014-2015 budget proposal in the state capital of Columbus Monday. He emphasized that he is not a supporter of "Obamacare," but believes the Medicaid expansion, "makes sense for the state of Ohio."

"Ohio taxpayer dollars are coming back to Ohio to support a significant need we have," Kasich said. He said the extension would provide health coverage for the working poor. Coverage would be extended to about 366,000 more Ohioans.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the signature domestic achievement of Obama's first term, calls for expanding the Medicaid program for the poor to include Americans living near the poverty line. In many states, current Medicaid benefits are limited mainly to children and pregnant women.

The expansion is intended to bring 16 million uninsured people into the $2.8 trillion U.S. healthcare system. But many states, which would pay less than 10 percent of the cost under the law, have balked at the potential budget impact or rejected the prospect of participating in a new government program.

Kasich joins more than 20 other U.S. governors, including four other Republicans, in expanding Medicaid.

Since Obama's reelection, at least nine governors have chosen to support the Medicaid expansion, including the Republican governors of Arizona, Ohio, Nevada, New Mexico and North Dakota. Five Republicans have chosen to oppose it.

Another 15 governors - 13 Republicans and two Democrats - remain undecided. But experts say many are likely to reach decisions in coming weeks as they propose new budgets for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

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