Reject Kasich Medicaid Plan

President Barack Obama has rightly come under fire for his practice of bypassing Congress on critical issues that should be decided by the legislative branch of government. Now, it appears Ohio Gov. John Kasich may be ready to take a page from the White House playbook.

One provision of Obamacare, the new national health insurance program, calls for states to expand their Medicaid programs. Some, including West Virginia, have agreed to do so. But many others have not.

Ohio falls into that category. Many state legislators are worried about the cost to the state, not to mention the nation.

Under federal guidelines, about 366,000 additional people would be added to the Medicaid rolls if the expansion proceeds. Already, about one in five Ohioans is covered by the program, meant to provide health insurance for low-income and disabled people.

Obama has pledged the federal government will pay all the costs of expanding Medicaid for the next seven years. After that, states would pick up 10 percent of the expense.

Kasich has been an outspoken proponent of expansion. One of his key talking points has been that if Ohio goes along, the state would receive $13 billion in federal funds to provide insurance.

Reluctant lawmakers fear the federal government will break its promise, dumping an enormous new burden on the states. Some simply worry about the cost to Washington, which already has piled up a national debt approaching $17 trillion.

It was reported last week that Kasich has decided on an end-run around the full General Assembly. He has received permission from Washington to expand Medicaid, along with a pledge of $2.56 billion to get the program started.

Now, Kasich plans to ask the state Controlling Board, a seven-member panel composed mostly of lawmakers, for approval to spend the federal money – and thus expand Medicaid.

If the board approves – and that is far from certain – Kasich will have bypassed a General Assembly already on record in rejecting his plan.

If he succeeds, he will have made perhaps the biggest change in state government in decades, after a majority of legislators have said no to it.

That is not how government should operate. Controlling board members should make that clear by rejecting Kasich’s scheme.