A spokesman for Ohio Gov. John Kasich called out Vice President Pence Friday for saying that Obamacare impacted waiting lists for people with disabilities.
Pence, speaking at the National Governors Association summer conference in Providence, R.I., said that "far too many able-bodied" adults were placed in Medicaid under Obamacare.
"I know Gov. Kasich isn't with us, but I suspect that he's very troubled to know that in Ohio alone, nearly 60,000 disabled citizens are stuck on waiting lists, leaving them without the care they need for months of even years," Pence said. The vice president has been making a case for a Republican healthcare bill that would repeal parts of Obamacare, which would also make changes to Medicaid.
Kasich spokesperson John Keeling shared links about Pence's claim on Twitter and called it "#FakeNews."
"There is zero connection between those asking for support services and Medicaid expansion," Keeling said in an emailed statement. "In fact, after we expanded, the governor signed into law the largest investment in the system for the developmentally disabled in the history of the program, $286 million. To say Medicaid expansion had a negative impact on the developmental Disabilities system is false, as it is just the opposite of what actually happened."
John Weaver, who was a campaign consultant to Kasich when he ran for the GOP presidential nomination, shared a Columbus Dispatch story about the claim and wrote," C'mon @VP You claim to hate Fake News or just hate getting caught spreading it."
A spokesman for Pence, Marc Lotter, pushed back against Weaver, tweeting that the waiting list reference came from an editorial in the Wall Street Journal and shared a link to the piece. Weaver later blocked Lotter on Twitter.The Kaiser Family Foundation, using 2015 data, found that the waiting list for home and community-based services in Ohio had 62,000 people on it, but also published a separate data analysis piece in February 2017 concluding that Obamacare's expansion of Medicaid, which applies to low-income people, didn't impact disability waitlists.
Before Obamacare passed, states had different requirements for who could qualify for Medicaid, and Obamacare aimed to make states more uniform by saying anyone who is low-income could have access to the program, and most of the coverage was paid for by the federal government with the state gradually taking on a smaller portion of the cost. The Supreme Court, however, ruled in 2012 that the law should be optional for states, and as a result the District of Columbia and 31 states, including Ohio, have expanded the program. The current structure of Medicaid in expansion states has led to charges from Republicans that able-bodied people are being prioritized in the Medicaid program rather than people who are disabled, who would have qualified before Obamacare but still receive a lower federal match than people covered under expansion. The waiting lists to which Pence was referring apply to home and community-based services, and states had waiting lists before Obamacare was enacted.
Kasich, a Republican, has been a fierce defendant of Medicaid expansion, and Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio is undecided on how he will vote for the bill. Senate Republicans on Thursday unveiled the latest version of their healthcare bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act, aimed at repealing and replacing parts of Obamacare, and governors remain an influential voice in the healthcare debate. Pence, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma attended the NGA conference to encourage governors to support the healthcare plan.
The Senate bill's changes to Medicaid, which covers low-income people, as well as children, people who are disabled, and adults in nursing homes, have been particularly controversial. The bill would roll back Obamacare's expansion of Medicaid in states that allowed coverage to go to all low-income residents. Over the long term it allows states to choose between receiving a fixed amount of federal dollars from Medicaid as a per-capita cap or a block grant and reconfigures the program's growth rate to match overall inflation rather than to its current, faster-increasing medical inflation. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that these changes would result in cuts of $772 billion in federal spending on Medicaid, and would shed 15 million people from the program.
Kasich issued a statement about the healthcare bill saying it was "still unacceptable" because of the changes it makes to Medicaid.
Still, Medicaid expansion hasn't been without controversy in Ohio's state government. The Ohio legislature sent Kasich a bill last month asking to freeze the expansion because the state is struggling to take on some of the costs as part of its overall budget. Kasich vetoed the bill.
Pence also had expanded Medicaid when he was governor of Indiana, but did so through a waiver program that included premium contributions and work requirements.