After Facing Opposition From His Own Party, GOP Governor May Expand Medicaid By Executive Order

CREDIT: AP Photo/Rick Osentoski

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) has been a major proponent of Obamacare's Medicaid expansion

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) has long been a proponent of Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. Now, hamstrung by reticent state lawmakers in his own party, Kasich may take things into his own hands and expand the program through executive order.

There have been persistent rumors that Kasich may take this course of action. On Wednesday, Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols told reporters, “We continue to explore all our options and just want to get this done.”

Expanding Medicaid is projected to cut Ohio’s uninsurance rate by almost 61 percent while extending health insurance to 275,000 low-income Ohioans. The expansion would be fully funded by the federal government for the first three years, after which it would continue to cover 90 percent of the tab. Nonetheless, many Republicans have resisted it because they do not want to appear to be cooperating with the federal health reform law.

State lawmakers agree that an executive order is a viable option for Kasich. “The governor, I think, has the authority to do that,” said Ohio Senate President Keith Faber (R) in an interview with the Columbus Dispatch. “It’s certainly within his prerogative. I’m a defender of legislative rights, and I would think the better solution would be a legislative option, but the governor does have that authority.”

Using that authority may set up a high-stakes legislative showdown. After issuing the executive order to expand Medicaid, Kasich would have to seek approval from a seven-member spending oversight panel in order to actually spend the federal money that facilitates expansion. But if that panel were to deny Kasich’s request, it wouldn’t just prevent Medicaid expansion — it would shut down the entirety of Ohio’s existing Medicaid program, which serves close to 2.5 million poor and disabled residents.

Several conservative lawmakers told the Columbia Dispatch that if it looks like the board will reject Kasich’s request, the governor could simply reverse his executive order.