As Ohio Gov. John Kasich has aggressively pushed for his state to participate in the Medicaid expansion in President Obama's health care law - to the point of bypassing his state's Republican-run legislature - he has insisted that he remains an ardent Obamacare opponent.
“Medicaid expansion is no different than the current Medicaid program, and to try to tie Medicaid to Obamacare, I don't see the connection,” Kasich has said.
But weeks into a key part of the law’s implementation, an overwhelming amount of data has confirmed what every intellectually honest person already knew — Medicaid is an integral part of Obamacare.
As the federal health care website, Healthcare.gov, has been besieged by technical problems that have made it difficult for applicants to sign up for Obamacare in the 36 states it is supposed to serve, the 14 states running their own exchanges have had a bit more success.
But beneath the headline numbers, a trend is emerging — most of the applicants touted as enrolling in Obamacare so far are low-income Americans registering for free care through Medicaid.
According to the latest data from Washington, 24,949 people have successfully enrolled in insurance through the Obamacare exchange. But of those, just 3,084 actually finished enrolling in privately-administered health care plans. The balance of individuals -- 88 percent -- enrolled in Medicaid.
At a White House event today, Obama touted the Medicaid expansion to explain that the technical problems facing the exchanges aren’t stopping all of Obamacare, citing Oregon as a success story.
Last week, the Oregonian newspaper reported that Oregon had reduced the number of uninsured in the state by 10 percent in just two weeks.
“Obamacare just cut Oregon's uninsured rate by 10 percent,” read a Washington Post headline. But that success came through fast-tracking the expansion of Medicaid.
In Minnesota, 2,500 of the 3,800 reported enrollments have been through the Medicaid system. California added a whopping 600,000 to Medicaid.
This shouldn't be seen as a surprise. In 2014, nine million Americans gaining insurance through the health care law are expected to do so through Medicaid, according to the Congressional Budget Office, compared to seven million projected to get coverage through the exchanges.
The CBO estimates that Medicaid expansion alone will cost the federal government $710 billion over the next decade. If every state were to follow Kasich's lead and participate in the Medicaid expansion, that number would be closer to $1 trillion.
During his 2010 run for governor, Kasich attempted to portray himself as a Tea Party-friendly candidate. Days before his election, he declared, “Obamacare must be blocked.”
Yet, under pressure from lobbyists for hospitals that stand to gain if Medicaid is expanded, Kasich has embraced the Medicaid expansion.
His campaign took an even more outrageous turn Oct. 11 when he decided to bypass the Republican legislature — which had repeatedly rejected the expansion — and seek approval of the measure by a separate state oversight board.
The board is expected to approve the measure Monday afternoon, according to the Columbus Dispatch, after a board member was replaced “to help ensure it gets the needed votes.”
Kasich, who is up for reelection next year, may prevail in his fight. But he shouldn’t be allowed to claim to be an opponent of Obamacare when he fought to expand Obamacare by any objective measure.
For more on Kasich's Medicaid push, check out the work of Ohio conservative blogger Jason Hart, who has been tenaciously chronicling Kasich's machinations.