Ohio Medicaid needs to expand

By Johnathon Ross, M.D.
The Blade (Toledo, Ohio), Letters, Dec. 9, 2012

Ohio lawmakers are debating whether to expand the state’s Medicaid program for people with low incomes, as all states are encouraged but not required to do under the Affordable Care Act. Unless Ohio enacts the full expansion of Medicaid by 2014, many low-income Ohioans will have no health coverage.

Caring Americans should protect, empower, and advocate policies that promote the public good. Medicaid expansion is critical to that common good.

Many people think that if you are poor enough, you get Medicaid, but that isn’t always true. Nondisabled adults without children generally are excluded from Medicaid, no matter how little they make.

Many people who are eligible for the Medicaid expansion are employed in low-paying jobs without health insurance. Their unreimbursed care is a cost driver for everyone. Expanding Medicaid will reduce the costs shifted to people with insurance when physicians and hospitals provide unreimbursed care to patients without insurance.

We must expand coverage to all who are eligible under the Affordable Care Act, because an expanded Medicaid will save lives.

Across the globe, only universal coverage systems such as Medicare for all have been shown to control health-care costs. Comprehensive reform includes expanding an improved Medicare to all Americans.

Until this is a reality, the full expansion of Medicaid to 138 percent of the federal poverty level allowed under the Affordable Care Act is a moral necessity.

Dr. Johnathon Ross serves on the executive committee of Single Payer Action Network-Ohio.