Supporters Of Medicaid Expansion Send GOP Lawmakers A Message


UPDATED: Tuesday July 9, 2013 5:51 PM

Supporters of Medicaid expansion are hoping Ohio lawmakers will change their minds and pass a bill by the end of the year.

Hundreds of supporters, including those from mental health organizations, consumer groups, healthcare advocates and the Ohio Chamber of Commerce rallied at the statehouse on Tuesday.

Among the speakers was veteran Bob Thurman, who was assigned to the 354 Tactical Fighter Wing in Kunsan, Korea from 1968 to 1969.  He also served in the Ohio Air National Guard from 1965 to 1971 as a member of the 121st Tactical Fighter Wing.

Thurman says Medicaid expansion is critical to help the nations’ veterans receive healthcare coverage.

"We have people in Ohio, including veterans, who have a need," said Thurman.  "And it's not fair that the guy who drives the bus and takes me from home to here is under-employed and can't get medical coverage for he and his family."

Kathleen Gmeiner from Ohio Consumers for Health Coverage says not all of the 26,000 veterans in Ohio receive healthcare from the Veterans Administration.

"Medicaid expansion will serve all of these people," said Gmeiner.  "Over 275,000 Ohioans, moms and dads, these are people in the 50s and early 60s, before they're on Medicare.  They deserve to go to the doctor when they need to."

Thurman, who was inducted into the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame, says the issue is about fairness.

"This is about people that can't take medicine because they can't afford to buy it," said Thurman.  "They can't go to the doctor because they can't afford to pay him.  This is why we need to get it done."

Gov. John Kasich addressed the rally but did not indicate he will put additional pressure on the Republican legislative leadership to bring it to a vote.

Last month, GOP lawmakers attempted to end the Medicaid expansion debate by attaching language in the state budget, but Kasich vetoed it.

Thurman says if Kasich and lawmakers fail to pass it, there is another solution.

"I know we'll get this done," Thurman said.  "Because if we can't get the legislature to do it, we'll get it on the ballot and the people of Ohio will do it."

A ballot initiative could be tricky for Republicans, with Kasich supporting a statewide effort while tea party advocates and conservatives, including state Treasurer Josh Mandel, oppose it.

A Quinnipiac University poll in March showed Ohio voters agree with the idea of opening up the state Medicaid program to more recipients by a narrow 48 percent to 42 percent margin.

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