With election season behind us, Ohio’s General Assembly is partially populated by legislators who lost or have given up their seats, but who haven’t yet left office. Among those lame ducks are some who have in the past sought to roll back Ohio’s Medicaid expansion, despite the program’s enormous popularity. Legislators who’ve been voted out of office have nothing left to lose. But the 691,000 Ohioans who now rely on the expansion to access health care stand to lose a lot, as do the tens of thousands whose jobs depend on the federal funds made available through the program.
Here in Ross County, Medicaid expansion helps 5,509 people access the care they need -almost 12 percent of working-age adults can afford to visit a doctor or fill a prescription because of it. Since Ohio expanded the Medicaid program to cover non-custodial parents and low-wage workers in 2014, nearly twice that share has at some point gotten care through this program. The Medicaid expansion has been a safety-net to more than one in five working age people in Ross County who at some point didn’t get enough hours, or lost a job or had an illness or some other misfortune that reduced their income. Thanks to Medicaid expansion, they were still able to see a doctor if they got sick or hurt.
The expansion of Medicaid brings billions of federal dollars into the state. While the impact of Medicaid dollars ripples across all sectors, it is most prominent in health care jobs. As of 2017, 790 Ross County private sector jobs – 9.9 percent – were in health care. Unlike many new jobs that have grown since the recession, the health industry tends to pay decent wages. In other words, expansion of Medicaid dollars in our economy doesn’t just mean new jobs—it means good jobs.
Policy Matters Ohio recently commissioned two economic forecasts: one for an Ohio with an intact Medicaid expansion in 2019 and one without. The analysis leaves no room for debate: Medicaid expansion strengthens Ohio’s economy. In 2019, we expect Ohio will have 54,000 more jobs with the expansion than without it, and $2.7 billion more disposable personal income. Expansion underpins $1 billion more in earnings for workers in the health care sector, and hundreds of millions more in other sectors – like construction and retail – that benefit as federal funding for Medicaid expansion circulates throughout the local economy.
Federal funding for Medicaid expansion is a big boost for Ohio’s economy, and it covers more than 90 percent of the cost of care for enrollees. According to state budget director Tim Keen, the state’s share of the cost of covering hundreds of thousands of Ohioans will be just 3.2 percent of the total in 2021. That’s a good deal for Ohio.
Ohio lawmakers need to stand firm for preserving Medicaid expansion. We need them to keep health care access and health care jobs from being sucker-punched during the lame duck. Now is the time to call your elected officials (888-OHIO-123) and tell them to protect Ohio’s Medicaid expansion.
Wendy Patton is the senior project director at Policy Matters Ohio in Cleveland.
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