DEAL OR DRAIN?

June 24, 2010

Ohio taxpayers will spend $1.45 billion in the coming years to finance a sharp expansion of the state Medicaid program included in the new federal health care law.  How good a deal that is depends on who you ask, says the Columbus Dispatch.  

Advocates for the uninsured say it is a bargain: 

  • The advocates stress that the federal government will pick up most of the cost of the expansion -- $16 billion over the first six years beginning in 2014.
  • Ohio's share translates to $444 a year for each of the estimated 544,000 new enrollees in the state health care program for the poor and disabled. 

However, elected officials who opposed the health care law and other critics say that with Ohio facing an $8 billion shortfall in the next two-year budget, it is an expense the state cannot afford: 

  • They argue that it does not matter whether the state or federal government is footing the tab because it is all taxpayers' money.
  • They also note that the expansion will increase Medicaid rolls by more than 25 percent. 

Nationwide, an estimated 34 million Americans will gain health care coverage under the new law, about half through the expansion of Medicaid to an eligibility threshold of 133 percent of the federal poverty level -- $29,326 a year for a family of four.  

Current eligibility varies among states and individual status: 

  • In Ohio, parents earning up to 90 percent of poverty now qualify and most childless adults are ineligible.
  • The Kaiser Family Foundation has projected the total cost to the federal government will be $443.5 billion between 2014 and 2019 while states will spend $21.2 billion.
  • Based on projections by the state's Department of Job and Family Services, Ohio's average annual cost will be about $241,000. 

Source: Observers, "Deal or drain?"  Columbus Dispatch, June 21, 2010. 

For text:

http://blog.dispatch.com/dailybriefing/2010/06/deal_or_drain.shtml 

 

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