After Extending Health Coverage To Poor People, GOP Governor Now Faces A Primary Challenge


Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R)

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) will face a primary challenge in his bid for a second term this year after extending health care coverage to lower-income Ohioans.

Ted Stevenot, the president of the Ohio Liberty Coalition and co-founder of the Clermont County tea party, is scheduled to announce his candidacy early next week and is expected to run against Kasich’s decision to implement the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion provision, which will provide Medicaid coverage to residents with incomes above 138 percent of the federal poverty line. The decision could reduce Ohio’s uninsurance rate by over 60 percent and extend basic health benefits to 275,000 of the poorest Ohio residents.

A state board approved using $2.5 billion in federal money to expand Medicaid in October, after Kasich failed to win support for the measure in the Republican-controlled legislature. As a result, multiple conservative groups and Republican lawmakers have filed a lawsuit to prevent the state from accepting the federal dollars to fund the initiative.

Stevenot is a leader of that opposition, arguing that enrolling more people in Medicaid will add to the national debt, undermine the free market, and result in a government takeover. In a March 2013 letter to supporters, Stevenot also claimed that expanding eligibility would add more Democrats to the voting rolls and “turn Ohio into an irrevocably ‘blue’ state.”

Ohio political observers expect Kasich to beat Stevenot, but say the challenge could force the governor to address the Medicaid issue more directly, potentially alienating his base.