Faith Leaders Pressure Ohio Governor To Expand ‘Life-Saving’ Medicaid Program

Hundreds of members of Greater Cleveland Congregations rally for Medicaid (via The Plain Dealer)

On top of slashing state funds for Ohio’s Medicaid program, Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) hasn’t yet committed to Obamacare’s optional Medicaid expansion — even though participating in the expansion would extend health coverage to an estimated 600,000 low-income Ohioans. But the state’s religious and community leaders are hoping the governor might be swayed by their moral argument for health care reform.

Religious and community leaders held a rally on Thursday to call on Kasich to expand Medicaid under Obamacare, emphasizing the importance of ensuring that Ohio’s poorest residents have access to the live-saving health care they need:

More than 1,000 rallied at Olivet Institutional Baptist Church in Cleveland on Thursday night to show their support for expanding Medicaid in Ohio.

The assembly brought together members of religious congregations, community groups and major health care providers to demonstrate community support for expanding Medicaid. […]

“We believe that opening access to life-saving health insurance to 600,000 Ohioans through the Medicaid program is the right thing to do for Ohio’s people, for our economy and for our state’s fiscal health,” said the Rev. Tracey Lind, co-chairman of the GCC group from Trinity Cathedral which attended the assembly. The GCC includes more than 20,000 members of 40 churches, synagogues and mosques that are working for passage of Medicaid expansion.

In addition to faith leaders, the Ohio Hospital Association also voiced its support for Medicaid expansion on Thursday, explaining that extending public insurance coverage to low-income people will also help create jobs in the state’s critical health care sector. “Seven of Ohio’s top 12 employers are hospital systems,” Mike Abrams, the president and CEO of the association, said.

And, since the federal government will fund the first several years of the Medicaid expansion, reports have estimated that Ohio will actually result in $1.43 billion in net fiscal savings in the state budget over the next eight years — while failing to expand Medicaid would actually cost the state $8 billion in additional health care costs. “We think it’s a no-brainer,” said Rev. Tracey Lind Dean of Cleveland’s Trinity Episcopal Cathedral. “We believe that it’s going to help people in the state of Ohio be healthier and it’s going to be a revenue source for the state, and we know that with every health care dollar spent that there are more dollars generated in the economy.”

Faith leaders in other Republican-controlled states that have refused to expand Medicaid, like Texas, have also attempted to pressure lawmakers to embrace health care reform. But over a dozen GOP governors are still refusing to cooperate with Obamacare, even to extend health coverage to more of their state’s neediest residents.