Local GOP senator calls for Kasich to veto Ohio Medicaid freeze

State Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering, is calling on Ohio Gov. John Kasich to veto the freeze on Medicaid expansion enrollment that her fellow Republicans put in the state budget.
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State Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering, is calling on Ohio Gov. John Kasich to veto the freeze on Medicaid expansion enrollment that her fellow Republicans put in the state budget.

Kasich still deciding if he will use veto pen on $133B budget

Ohio Gov. John Kasich has until the end of the day today to sign a two-year, $133 billion state budget, but that might not end the wrangling over one of the more controversial measures in the legislation.

Kasich can veto individual line items in the budget, including a proposal to freeze new Medicaid signups for expanded coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

He will announce any vetoes by 11:30 p.m. Friday at a new conference. Midnight is the deadline for signing the bill.

On Thursday State Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering joined Democrats in the legislature and health care advocates in calling for a veto of the Medicaid freeze.

RELATED: Freeze on new enrollment under Medicaid stays in state budget

“I will vote to sustain the veto,” said Lehner, who voted for the budget on Wednesday. “And I am not at all sure that the Senate has the votes to override.”

John Fortney, press secretary  for Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Medina, said Obhof “runs the caucus democratically, with a lower case ‘d.’”

“Robust debate within the group is always encouraged. With that, Senator Lehner doesn’t speak for the caucus, but is entitled to her own opinion,” Fortney said.

House Minority Leader Fred Strahorn, D-Dayton, also called for a veto, and on Friday Senate Democrats released a list of items they want Kasich to veto, including the freeze.

"Ohioans need to be healthy in order to be productive in their day to day lives. Without the ability to afford doctor visits, hospital stays, nursing home care, home health care, and long term care costs, families will spiral into debt, illness and despair,” wrote Strahorn and three other top House Democrats in a letter urging Kasich to veto the bill.

Kasich, a Republican, pushed for expanding Medicaid in Ohio under the Affordable Care Act and has spent much of the past week in Washington, D.C., protesting the Medicaid cuts in the U.S. Senate’s proposed health care bill .

But if he vetoes that part of the budget, state GOP lawmakers may attempt an override. The House has a meeting scheduled for Thursday and the Senate is expected to meet the week of July 10.

A three-fifths vote of each house is required to override a veto, so for the Senate that means 20 votes. The House would need 60 votes to reverse a Kasich veto.

RELATED: Senate passes $132.7B state budget which freezes Medicaid enrollment

The 2018-2019 budget passed on party lines Wednesday in the Republican-dominated House and Senate would stop new enrollment under the Medicaid expansion. More than 500,000 Ohioans could lose coverage in the first 18 months after the ban goes into effect on July 1, 2018, according to a memo from the Governor’s Office of Health Transformation. The state would have to obtain a federal waiver to enact the freeze.

Kasich went around lawmakers in 2013 when he expanded the program that now extends coverage to about 725,500 Ohioans at a cost of more than $5 billion — the bulk of which picked up by the federal government. GOP lawmakers have said the cost to the state could rise because of uncertainty over health care at the national level.

Kasich’s office would not comment Thursday on what step he might take. “We’ll have plenty to say when the time is right,” Kasich said Wednesday.

RELATED: State softens plan to punish employers for not allowing guns on sites

Republicans in the General Assembly gained enough seats after the 2016 election to override a veto from Kasich. In fact, Republicans have the largest majority in the 50 years since the current number of legislative seats was set.


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Julie Carr Smyth of the Associated Press contributed to this report.