State board OKs Medicaid funding

By Julie Carr Smyth - Associated Press

COLUMBUS (AP) — A state funding allotment crucial to doctors, hospitals and other Ohio Medicaid providers has cleared a powerful legislative panel.

In a unanimous vote Monday, Ohio’s Controlling Board approved the state Medicaid director’s request for $264 million in state funding needed to qualify for $638 million in federal matching funds.

The panel was given unusual authority over Medicaid spending in Ohio’s latest state budget.

The administration of Republican Gov. John Kasich had said that without funding approval, it would have to cut provider payments 16 percent beginning in January to keep the state budget in balance. Without the cuts, the agency projected it would run out of money by May 2018 and be unable to pay providers.

The decision affects 3 million people covered by state Medicaid programs.

Four years ago, Kasich allies stacked the Controlling Board to win initial approval for the expansion option offered under the federal Affordable Care Act because the GOP-led Legislature opposed it. Republican lawmakers acted again in the state’s latest budget to rein in the program, including language calling for a freeze on new enrollments and a prohibition against re-enrollment by those who drop off.

After Kasich vetoed the provision, the Legislature returned to Columbus with the intent of an override.

However, legislative leaders opted against calling the vote at the last minute, saying they wanted to wait to see what would happen with the health care debate in Washington. Override threats have continued to percolate, but no action has been taken.

A separate successful provision added the requirement that Medicaid spending be run through the Controlling Board. The bipartisan, bicameral legislative board does not typically get a say in an agency’s annual spending allocations.

Medicaid sets plan rates in November for the six months beginning Jan. 1.

By Julie Carr Smyth

Associated Press