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Ohio Governor Doesn’t Think Medicaid Expansion Is Connected To Obamacare

Kasich wants to repeal Obamacare, but keep one of its primary policies in place.

The post Ohio Governor Doesn’t Think Medicaid Expansion Is Connected To Obamacare appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich

Ohio Gov. John Kasich

CREDIT: AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, File

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R), one of a handful of Republican leaders who has bucked the party to implement Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, does not believe this provision is actually connected to the health care reform law.

Kasich made headlines on Monday when he was quoted in an Associated Press story saying that Obamacare repeal is “not gonna happen,” adding that the opposition to the law “was really either political or ideological.” Since that’s an unusually frank admission from a Republican lawmaker, and particularly since the governor is a potential presidential contender for 2016, the comments got widespread coverage.

But Kasich quickly walked back his quote, saying he wasn’t actually referring to the entire Affordable Care Act. According to the governor, he specifically meant the law’s expansion of Medicaid. Kasich called the AP to request a clarification on Monday night, as well as gave an interview to Politico to further explain what he was trying to say.

“From Day One, and up until today and into tomorrow, I do not support Obamacare,” Kasich told Politico on Monday evening. “I never have, and I believe it should be repealed.” However, he said that doesn’t apply to the Medicaid expansion, which is one of the central provisions in the health care reform law, and which he thinks should be preserved. “I don’t really see expanding Medicaid as really connected to Obamacare,” he said.

The Affordable Care Act is designed to expand health coverage to the millions of Americans who couldn’t afford insurance prior to health reform. There are two major mechanisms by which the law seeks to accomplish that: the establishment of state-level insurance marketplaces, which allows people to use federal subsides to purchase private plans, and the expansion of the Medicaid program, which extends public coverage to additional low-income adults who didn’t previously qualify.

Kasich’s attempt to separate one of Obamacare’s biggest policies from the law as a whole is nothing new for opponents of health reform. Particularly as the law has taken effect and Americans across the country have signed up for new insurance plans, Republican candidates’ calls for repeal have become more muddled. For instance, last week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said he wants to get rid of Obamacare, but keep Kynect — the popular website that allows Kentucky residents to sign up for the plans on the new state marketplace.

Kasich himself articulated one of the reasons for this political maneuvering. In his interview with the AP, he pointed out that ideological opposition to Medicaid expansion doesn’t hold water “against real flesh and blood and real improvements in people’s lives.”

As of May, more than 180,000 Ohio residents had enrolled in Medicaid coverage under the expansion, a number that’s eventually expected to rise to about 330,000 people in total. A recent survey of the state’s hospitals found that they’ve seen fewer uninsured patients since the program has been expanded. Unsurprisingly, low-income Americans overwhelmingly favor this policy, according to a poll conducted by Harvard researchers.

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