- - Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Gov. John Kasich of Ohio was one of several Republican governors who agreed in 2013 to accept a grant of federal money under Obamacare to expand his state’s Medicaid services. The temporary grant of $2.6 billion, accepted over protests from his legislature, expires this year and Mr. Kasich now wants the legislature to approve taking more Obamacare subsidies to continue to pay for the expansion.

God, so far as anyone here knows, has issued no decrees on Obamacare, but the governor cites a divine dispatch from a higher power to make his appeal. “When you die and get to the meeting with St. Peter,” he warned, “he’s probably not going to ask you much about what you did about keeping government small, but he is going to ask you what you did for the poor.” The message to dissenters was clearly, “expand Medicaid with Obamacare help, just in case.” Mr. Kasich is traveling the country now as an evangelist for expansion, urging other governors to follow his lead.

He pitched his tent in Montana the other day and persuaded 10 Republicans to join all 41 Democrats to rewrite the rules for the 2015 legislative session to resurrect failed bills, including the earlier rejection of expanding the unpopular expansion scheme. Until now such resurrection required 60 votes, but the threshold has been lowered to a simple majority of 51 votes. Lobbyists for the health care industry now have an easier job. Do-overs, rarely possible in the lives of plain citizens, are available now for legislators in Montana.

Supermajorities, which can seem to casual observers to be superficially unfair, are nevertheless effective bulwarks against legislation considered in the heat of executive pressure. Several of the states, including California, Washington and South Dakota, require a supermajority to raise taxes, for example. Dismantling supermajorities enables special pleaders, like lobbyists for wealthy industries, to carry the day.

Mr. Kasich’s own Ohio is the 25th state to yield to the White House pressure, applied through the hospital lobby, to join the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare. By using federal money to tempt the states to tie themselves ever more tightly to Obamacare, the Obama administration builds a web of connections that makes it ever more difficult for Republicans to do anything about the president’s health care scheme, as they promised to do.

Gov. Kasich, who does not hide or disguise his ambition for higher office, perhaps next year, is entitled to imagine his appeal is divine; his goal of looking out for the poor is laudable but applying theology to the political works of man is tricky business, and invites abuse. St. Peter, observes The Wall Street Journal, “might recoil at a Medicaid program that reimburses doctors so poorly that fewer will take Medicaid patients and the quality of care is increasingly, well, poor.” Prescribing poor for the poor is not good medicine.

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