Advocates of expanding Medicaid in Ohio unveiled their ballot campaign last week, announcing they filed the initial set of signatures needed to start circulating petitions for an initiative statute.
“Health and human services advocates, healthcare providers and labor organizations together proved their dedication to this vital public policy issued collecting more than 5,800 signatures in four days time and over a holiday weekend,” said Jon Allison, a spokesman for Healthy Ohioans Work. “These devoted individuals an
d organizations have been advocating for Medicaid extension for many months and will continue to press for legislative action.”
Healthy Ohioans Work filed the petition, including a summary and full text of the proposed law - with the Secretary of State’s office. Ohio’s constitution requires at least 1,000 valid signatures be filed with the initial petition.
Earlier this year, Gov. John Kasich said the state should extend health care coverage to cover residents up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the federal government proposes to pay for 100 percent of the cost associated with extending Medicaid for 2014 through 2016.
And shortly after state lawmakers adjourned for summer recess, the governor and other supporters of expanding Medicaid urged them to return to extend tax-funded coverage for those who are uninsured and qualify for coverage.
Supporters of extending coverage estimate about 275,000 residents would qualify.
The advocates are pushing to have the issue on the November 2014 ballot.
The next step in the petition process, assuming the signatures are verified and the attorney general approves the ballot language, requires petitioners to file 115,574 valid signatures with the secretary of state at least 10 days before the start of the 2014 legislative session.
Next, the proposed law is presented to the legislature, which will have four months to consider it. If lawmakers don’t pass it, pass an amended version, or take no action, supplemental petitions will be circulated that demand the law be placed before voters in the next general election.
“Waiting to place this issue before the voters in November 2014 is not an ideal scenario,” Allison said. “Practically speaking, receiving voter approval in late 2014 means that Ohio will forgo 100 percent federal funding for 2014 and, most importantly, will lose the ability to provide much-needed health care coverage for more than 275,000 Ohioans. We urge the General Assembly to act in 2013 and help transform the lives of our working poor,”
Gov. Kasich’s budget plan included a provision to authorize an expansion of coverage but saw leaders in the Republican party reject it. They pledged to work on separate legislation to address the issue.
Some have questioned whether the federal government can afford the expansion and will leave the states with the added costs.
There are also questions about the Affordable Care Act itself, including a recent change announced by the Obama administration to delay a requirement that employers provide health insurance for workers or pay a penalty until the end of 2015.
Allison said members of Healthy Ohioans Work are ready to work with lawmakers.
“We respect that many in the General Assembly continue to consider Medicaid extension and reform and we stand ready to work in partnership,” he said.