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Ohio panel votes to expand Medicaid

The seven-member Controlling Board voted 5-2 to release $2.56 billion in federal dollars and expand Medicaid in Ohio on Monday.

An estimated 275,000 Ohioans would be eligible to enroll in the program.

“Together with the General Assembly we’ve improved both the quality of care from Medicaid and its value for taxpayers. Today’s action takes another positive step in this mutual effort,” Gov. John Kasich said in a statement released after the vote Monday. “I look forward to continuing our partnership with the General Assembly to build upon the progress we’ve already made to make Medicaid work better for Ohioans.”

Republican lawmakers rejected Kasich’s proposal to expand Medicaid in the state budget earlier this year. They also inserted language into the budget explicitly prohibiting expansion.

Kasich used his line item veto power to strike that language, leaving language intact that allows the state to expand to any group not prohibited by law.

Earlier Monday, Rep. Ross McGregor, R-Springfield, said that he would have preferred the General Assembly approve expansion but he supports going through the Controlling Board.

“I’m hopeful if we can take the expansion issue and take care of it, maybe not to everyone’s satisfaction, but it’s done nonetheless and then we can focus on the needed reforms,” McGregor said.

House Speaker William Batchelder of Medina, subbed in McGregor and Rep. Jeff McClain, R-Upper Sandusky, for two anti-expansion House Republicans said to be vying for the speaker post.

The board is composed of two majority party and one minority party members from each legislative chamber and an appointee of the governor’s Office of Budget and Management.

A group of 39 House Republicans signed a letter protesting Kasich’s use of the Controlling Board to expand Medicaid. They say the move goes against the “legislative intent” of the General Assembly, which passed a budget blocking Medicaid expansion.

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