Ohio Gov. John Kasich wants Congress to “fix” Obamacare’s insurance exchanges with more federal spending, he explained in a New York Times op-ed.
“Congress should first focus on fixing the Obamacare exchanges before it takes on Medicaid,” Kasich wrote, insisting that the federal government “provide adequate tax credits” to prop up the failed law.
Kasich has criticized the House’s American Health Care Act (AHCA) and the Senate’s Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) at every step in the legislative process, penning opinion columns and making TV appearances to demand more spending and a slower phase-out of Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.
When AHCA took shape as a package of delayed health insurance reforms well short of a full Obamacare repeal, Kasich attacked it from the left. Even as it became clear that BCRA was in some respects less ambitious than AHCA, Kasich attacked it from the left, too.
One of several Republican governors who agreed to add working-age adults with no kids and no disabilities to Medicaid in return for billions per year in new federal funding, Kasich is fiercely opposed to AHCA because the bill would start winding down Obamacare’s enhanced federal match for new enrollees in 2020.
There are 725,000 Ohioans on Medicaid under the Obamacare expansion. The Republicans who control the Ohio General Assembly passed a budget freezing expansion sign-ups next July, but Kasich vetoed the expansion freeze.
Ohio’s legislature wants to stop signing up more Ohioans for Obamacare expansion 18 months earlier than AHCA would end Obamacare’s 90 percent federal funding for new enrollees. BCRA’s Medicaid expansion spending cuts would be even slower.
“Just taking up the fatally flawed House plan is not an answer, and this idea should be immediately rejected for the same reasons senators rejected the Senate’s own proposal,” Kasich continued in his Times op-ed. “Also, simply repealing Obamacare without having a workable replacement is just as bad.”
The 2020 presidential campaign Kasich is gearing up for may not go anywhere, but so far, the term-limited Republican governor’s efforts to save Obamacare have been more successful than congressional Republicans’ attempts to stop it.
After bloating Ohio’s Medicaid enrollment from 2.2 million to 3.1 million in just six years — during a national economic upswing! — Kasich has joined Democrats in demonizing slower Medicaid spending growth as a grievous cut.
“I think there are people who are breathing a sigh of relief,” Kasich told Jake Tapper during a Tuesday CNN interview on BCRA’s failure.
“To just repeal something like that, where do people go then? You just can’t walk away from that,” Kasich added, trashing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s plan to hold a vote on the partial Obamacare repeal bill President Obama vetoed in 2016.
When Kasich leaves office in January 2019, hospital lobbyists are bound to miss him. This spring, Kasich was named to the Ohio Hospital Association Hall of Fame for his efforts to keep federal taxpayers on the hook for Obamacare expansion as long as possible.
As conservatives warned throughout 2013, Medicaid expansion won’t be easy to unwind now that millions of able-bodied, working-age Americans have been promised free care. All four of the Republicans running to replace Kasich are officially opposed to Obamacare, but only Rep. Jim Renacci has stuck his neck out to support the Medicaid expansion freeze.
At least Kasich’s open support for Obamacare is a refreshing departure from years of attempting to draw a rhetorical line between the law and its Medicaid expansion, which he rammed through unilaterally in Ohio.
In 2014, concerned that embracing Obamacare would sink his presidential hopes, Kasich lashed out at the Associated Press for reporting that he didn’t expect the law to be repealed. He was unequivocal in his support for repeal:
The AP got it wrong. Ohio said NO to the Obamacare exchange for a reason. As always, my position is that we need to repeal and replace.
— John Kasich (@JohnKasich) October 20, 2014
Spent my night talking to the NYT, WSJ & Politico. Why? Because the AP screwed up. Let me make my position simple. Repeal Obamacare.
— John Kasich (@JohnKasich) October 21, 2014
Because Kasich is a big-government Republican whose support for a Democrat policy helps center-left reporters bash conservatives, Kasich never has to explain why he’s fighting repeal of a law he campaigned against in 2010, 2014, and 2016.
It’s the same reason Kasich doesn’t have to answer for the dozens of times he said the federally-funded Obamacare expansion would be paid for with “Ohio money,” or the fact that billions of dollars in Obamacare expansion cost overruns caused Ohio’s Medicaid spending to increase by 44 percent his first five years in office.
What should be more disconcerting for conservatives and libertarians is that Sen. Rob Portman — an Ohio Republican who ran on Obamacare repeal in his reelection race last year — sounds a little more like Kasich with each passing day.
Portman voted for the 2015 repeal bill that Obama vetoed, but announced his opposition to the same language when McConnell said he would bring it up for a vote this month. “I would not support just having a repeal vote if that’s all he’s going to offer,” Portman said.
Portman was among the liberal Republican senators demanding McConnell increase BCRA’s spending on Medicaid in general and Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion in particular.