- Associated Press - Thursday, April 9, 2015

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Ohio Gov. John Kasich said Thursday that he’s hopeful state lawmakers will approve money to support an expansion of Medicaid after fellow Republicans jettisoned the idea from his last budget.

The governor’s $72.3 billion, two-year spending blueprint sets aside funds to help cover the more than 500,000 low-income Ohioans who enrolled in the expanded federal-state health program.

Kasich told reporters at a Statehouse event Thursday that he was optimistic about the expansion’s continuance.

“I couldn’t conceive of a half a million people all of a sudden waking up one day and having no health care coverage as provided under this program,” the governor said.

Kasich’s administration extended Medicaid eligibility in 2013, as allowed under President Barack Obama’s health overhaul.

The Democratic president’s law calls for Washington to pay the full cost of the Medicaid extension through 2016 and 95 percent in 2017, so Ohio would have to kick in $120 million during the new biennium to support the state’s share.

The GOP-dominated Legislature balked when Kasich sought approval to fund the extension in his last budget. The state’s Controlling Board appropriated the money - not the full Legislature.

Kasich said he did not expect to go that route this time. “I would not be anticipating Controlling Board.”

The governor’s comments came as the Ohio House works to revise his spending plan.

One budget provision that appeared to be on its way out was a proposal to shift Ohio away from directly paying independent health aides, nurses or other providers. Under the idea, by July 2019, Ohio Medicaid would no longer accept billings submitted by non-agency providers, except in certain circumstances. The move would impact more than 13,000 independent workers who help care for about 16,000 individuals.

The proposal sparked hours of legislative testimony from individuals with disabilities who feared it could limit their choices in picking the workers who tend to their basic needs at home.

State Rep. Robert Sprague, who chairs the House Finance subcommittee that reviewed the provision, told The Associated Press in an interview Thursday he expected the proposal to be scrapped from the budget bill.

“We’re planning on taking that out and looking at that separately,” said Sprague, a Findlay Republican.

He said lawmakers wanted to make sure that those getting help from independent providers have a chance to give input.

As for the Medicaid expansion funds, Sprague said legislators were still discussing the issue along with others.

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