States now can choose to cover more citizens through Medicaid. The Affordable Care Act creates a new category of Medicaid benefits which would cover adults whose yearly income falls below 138 percent of the federal poverty level - about $15,800 for a single individual. Ohio lawmakers have not yet approved this change. Many are concerned about the costs to Ohio if expanded. There are also costs to Ohio if Medicaid is not expanded. For expanded Medicaid, the federal government will pay 100 percent for 2014, 2015 and 2016. After 2016 the federal match decreases on an annual basis to not less than 90 percent by 2020 and in later years. This "enhanced match" exceeds the current rate of 64-65 percent.
If Ohio doesn't expand Medicaid, the state will not get the higher federal match. Just by delaying expansion, Ohio has the potential to lose months of 100 percent federal match money. Instead of getting the projected amount of $23.8 billion in additional federal funds flowing into Ohio's economy through 2019, Ohioans' federal taxes will go to pay for expanded Medicaid in other states.
A recent study by Ohio State University and the Health Policy Institute of Ohio, with others, concluded Medicaid expansion would have a positive economic impact on every county. With more funds paying for more coverage locally, employment is projected to increase especially in the areas of ambulatory health services, hospitals, insurance carriers, administrative and support services, construction and retail trade. The increased economic activity is expected to result in increased local general sales tax income. In Washington County, the projected new local general sales tax revenues in 2015 due to Medicaid expansion amounts to $120,517; in Monroe County $19,541; in Morgan County $14,232; and in Noble County $12,751.
In addition to these benefits, with Medicaid expansion, every county will see an increase in uninsured residents getting health coverage. Washington and surrounding counties could see between 55 percent 64 percent decrease in uninsured adults if Ohio expands Medicaid. You or someone you know, lacking health insurance or the money to pay for medical care, may put off going to the doctor, filling a prescription, or delay treatment until a condition becomes a health catastrophe. As long as there are uninsured in Ohio, every Ohioan will share the cost of their care through higher insurance rates, cost shifting, higher fees, and the cost of emergency, instead of preventative care.
It is important to know all the facts when considering this important issue.
Robin A. Bozian
EDITOR'S NOTE: Robin Bozian is managing attorney of the Southeastern Ohio Legal Services.