by Pat Galbincea for Cleveland.com
January 25, 2013
CLEVELAND, Ohio --- More than 1,000 rallied at Olivet Institutional Baptist Church in Cleveland on Thursday night to show their support for expanding Medicaid in Ohio.
The assembly brought together members of religious congregations, community groups and major health care providers to demonstrate community support for expanding Medicaid.
The reason was because President Barack ''Obama's Affordable Care Act called for and funded the expansion of the Medicaid program, which provides health insurance to millions of poor Americans.
However, the Supreme Court ruled last year that the federal government could not compel states to expand Medicaid. The decision to expand it in Ohio is up to Gov. John Kasich and state legislators.
Linda Robinson was one many who several of her personal experience and urged Kasich to rule favorably for Ohio Medicaid Expansion.
"Access to health care is really important," said Robinson. 64, of Cleveland. "I know what it's like to wonder how to pay for medication."
Robinson said her brother, who died of cancer, was billed $6,000 a month for an experimental drug. "I wondered if I should sell my house or my car to help him pay for that," she said. "I loved my brother and wanted to do whatever I could to help him. But I can see why people today don't go to doctors. They feel they can't afford them."
It is unknown if Kasich will expand and offer government-supported health insurance to the estimated 600,000 residents currently without insurance.
If Ohio does not expand Medicaid, the state's poorest residents are expected to continue seeking free and discounted care at clinics and hospitals. If the state does expand it, hospitals will begin to be reimbursed through Medicaid.
If Ohio expands Medicaid, the state will fulfill an option under the Affordable Care Act to provide coverage to adults living at up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level -- which is $15,400 a year for an individual and about $32,000 a year for a family of four.
Kasich is expected to reveal his two-year state budget -- with his decision on Medicaid expansion -- on Feb. 4.
"We believe that opening access to life-saving health insurance to 600,000 Ohioans through the Medicaid program is the right thing to do for Ohio's people, for our economy and for our state's fiscal health," said the Rev. Tracey Lind, co-chairman of the GCC group from Trinity Cathedral which attended the assembly. The GCC includes more than 20,000 members of 40 churches, synagogues and mosques that are working for passage of Medicaid expansion.
Another speaker, David West got the assembly fired up with his story. He has no health insurance because he is unemployed.
Life fell apart for him when he moved from Las Vegas to Cleveland to get married a few years ago. He ended up in prison because of drug abuse. He started attending Cuyahoga Community College after getting out of prison last year.
"As you get older, you get wiser," said West, 47. "I'm trying to get a good education that will let me get a job and pay taxes, just like I used to do. I'm also trying to find a part-time job...but neither Tri-C nor a part-time job will help me to get health insurance.
"I guess it's in God's hands," he added. "But I would feel a lot better if I knew I could have Medicaid until I am back on my feet."
Greater Cleveland Congregations lead organizer Ari Lipman said a recent independent report by Ohio State University and the Health Policy Institute of Ohio shows expansion will bring in $1.43 billion in net fiscal savings and revenue to the state budget over the next eight years and add $17.5 billion in increased economic activity -- plus prevent about $8 billion in additional health care costs to Ohio businesses and individuals should expansion not take place.