Lawmakers finalize legislation on health care reform

By MARC KOVAC @ohiocapitalblog C-N Capital Bureau Published:

COLUMBUS -- State lawmakers finalized legislation Wednesday to limit spending increases and better reform health care services provided to needy residents.

Senate Bill 206 passed on a split vote of 52-35 in the Ohio House, and the Ohio Senate later concurred, 28-5, sending the law changes to Gov. John Kasich for his expected signature.

"From day 1 of this administration, we have worked with the legislature to drive down costs and growth in Medicaid, and these efforts have helped save $3 billion since 2011," Rob Nicols, the governor's spokesman, said in a released statement. "We support this bill and value the General Assembly's partnership in continuing to reform Ohio's Medicaid program."

SB 206 creates a joint committee to oversee the state's Medicaid program, keeping closer tabs on costs and services provided to eligible residents. Among other provisions, the bill seeks to limit increases in Medicaid spending and move individuals who have other options for health care out of the program.

The legislation moved Wednesday over the objections of many Democratic lawmakers, who said the Republican-controlled chambers would better serve needy residents by expanding Medicaid eligibility rather than creating another committee.

"This is just another piece of legislation that essentially doesn't do anything to actually move us forward," said Rep. John Carney, D-Columbus. He added later, "Setting up another committee to study it, to listen to the same people who just gave you advice that you didn't listen to, just seems like a waste of a lot of people's time."

Rep. Bob Hagan, D-Youngstown, called the legislation a "magic trick" and a "ridiculous program" offered by Republicans who would not act on a Medicaid expansion earlier this year.

Democrats attempted a number of amendments, including one to codify the latter, which was accomplished by Gov. John Kasich via a vote of the state Controlling Board in October rather than a full vote of the Senate and House. All of those amendments failed.

Backers of the legislation countered that SB 206 is needed to ensure eligible residents get the care they need and the overall costs of the Medicaid program are better controlled.

"We are eliminating several committees (with this legislation) and creating one that actually has some teeth and some bite to it," said Rep. Barbara Sears, R-Toledo.

Rep. Ron Amstutz, R-Wooster, added that additional Medicaid-related reform legislation is planned.

"We will be doing more work on this," he said. "This is not the end game."

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