COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Supporters of extending health coverage to more low-income Ohioans are exploring whether an expansion of Medicaid could be put to a statewide vote.
The Center for Community Solutions has hired legal counsel for guidance on bringing a possible ballot issue to voters, said John Begala, executive director of the Cleveland-based policy organization. The organization also is contacting other groups to gauge their interest should signatures need to be gathered for an initiative.
"It's definitely doable — more likely in 2014 than 2013," Begala said in an interview Wednesday.
Republican Gov. John Kasich proposed the Medicaid expansion in his state budget plan, but GOP leaders in the Ohio House dropped it from the spending blueprint last month before sending it to the Senate.
The Medicaid proposal hit another roadblock last week. Senate President Keith Faber announced his chamber's version of the budget won't include Medicaid expansion, but he said Medicaid "reform" is not dead.
Meanwhile, Democrats in the Ohio Senate have introduced a bill that mirrors Kasich's proposal, seeking to bring the idea to a stand-alone vote.
Begala said he's hopeful the General Assembly and the Kasich administration will come up with a solution before petitions circulate for a ballot issue.
"Our first preference is certainly not to go this route," he said. "This is the last resort."
The Medicaid expansion is one of the key components of the federal Affordable Care Act. Of the nearly 30 million people in the U.S. expected to gain insurance coverage under the law, about half would be covered if Medicaid's expanded.