Created on Tuesday, 22 October 2013 Written by ANN SANNER, Associated Press
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — As mostly Democratic praise rolled in for Ohio Gov. John Kasich's successful push to expand Medicaid, legal and legislative fights loomed with the governor's fellow Republicans.
Members of Ohio Gov. John Kasich's cabinet are shown during a controlling board meeting to advocate Medicaid expansion Monday, Oct. 21, 2013 in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio Gov. John Kasich has pushed for Medicaid expansion. But the Republican-controlled legislature has balked, so Kasich turned to the Controlling Board. (AP Photo/Jule Smyth)
Ohio recently got approval from the federal government to extend Medicaid eligibility to provide health coverage to thousands more residents. And on Monday, a board of six lawmakers and an appointee of the governor granted a request from Gov. John Kasich's administration to spend about $2.56 billion in federal money on the expansion.
Kasich's move to bypass the full Legislature and go to the Controlling Board, which handles certain adjustments to the state budget, has been criticized by his fellow Republicans who dominate the General Assembly.
Senate President Keith Faber, a Celina Republican, said in a Monday statement that the board's action was not the end of the Medicaid discussion.
Both chambers are considering changes to the program to make it more sustainable.
Faber also said a bill will be introduced in his chamber to rein in the Controlling Board's ability to make such "sweeping" budget adjustments.
The House speaker was among 39 state representatives to formally protest the governor's Controlling Board route last week, saying the request ran contrary to the state constitution.
Opponents of Medicaid expansion are expected to make a similar claim when they file a lawsuit as soon as Tuesday challenging the board's decision.
At issue is whether the board violated the Legislature's intent.
Under state law, the panel is to carry out the "legislative intent" of the General Assembly regarding program goals and levels of support for state agencies.
In the two-year state budget that lawmakers passed in June, majority Republicans inserted a provision that would have barred the Medicaid program from covering the additional low-income residents allowed under the new federal health care law. Kasich later vetoed the item.
Maurice Thompson, executive director of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, told reporters the governor's veto isn't relevant. "Our litigation is strictly about the separation of powers and checks and balances in Ohio," he said.
Greg Moody, the director of the Governor's Office of Health Transformation, said the administration carefully studied the request for spending authority.
He told the Controlling Board on Monday that the administration believed it would prevail in a legal challenge.
The administration's request only allows the state to spend the federal money on the 366,000 newly eligible Medicaid enrollees through June 30, 2015, the end of the current state budget. Then, additional legislative action would be needed to make sure future federal funds continue to cover the expanded population.
Several groups involved in an effort that could put Medicaid expansion on 2014 ballots say they plan to continue gathering signatures for the campaign because of the time-limited nature of the funding request.
That way, said ProgressOhio executive director Brian Rothenberg, "it's not left up to a constant, back-and-forth battle with the Legislature over ideology."
The full petition committee for the Health Ohioans Work campaign has yet to decide on how to proceed with the ballot issue.
AP Statehouse Correspondent Julie Carr Smyth contributed to this report.