Susan Bennett can’t get treatment for her skin cancer because she’s uninsured, unemployed and no doctor will see her.
Standing in the rain on the steps of the Ohio Statehouse, she asked state lawmakers on Thursday to extend Medicaid coverage, so more low-income Ohioans like herself could get the medical care they need.
“I want them to think about the lives they could save, and I would like for them to choose us — the people — over politics,” said the 52-year-old Bennett, of Columbus.
Bennett’s words were greeted with cheers from an estimated 2,500 demonstrators who gripped umbrellas and signs in support of Medicaid expansion at Thursday’s rally on the Capitol lawn. The event follows a decision by Ohio House Republicans to strip the expansion plan from the budget.
Republican House leaders said uncertainty in Washington over rules for the program caused them to drop the expansion, which is backed by GOP Gov. John Kasich. States can opt out of an expanded Medicaid program under the new federal law. If the state chooses to go forward with expansion, roughly 366,000 Ohioans would be eligible for health coverage, beginning in 2014. And the state would see $13 billion from the federal government over the next seven years to cover those newly eligible.
Kasich in February proposed going forward with expansion, contending it was a way for the state to recapture Ohio taxpayers’ federal money to provide medical care for those who were most vulnerable.
But many Republican lawmakers are averse to Democratic President Barack Obama’s law and resistant to expanding government programs. They have cited concerns about increasing the national debt and fears that the money from Washington could be cut off.
Health care providers, union workers, business owners and groups representing the poor and disabled assembled outside the Capitol to urge lawmakers to include the Medicaid expansion in the state budget proposal.
The House continues to hold hearings on the $61.4 billion, two-year state budget this week. Additional changes to the proposal could come next week before representatives vote on it. It would then go to the Senate for review.
The law is using health insurance exchanges to allow higher-income people to buy health plans. But without the Medicaid expansion, a group of people would likely go uncovered. With the expansion, an adult without children earning up to $15,415 can be added to Medicaid.
Bennett said she’s actively looking for work, though has mostly been able to find seasonal employment at warehouses and/or retail stores.
“Right now, I’m living on basically nothing,” she said.
Bennett gets by with support from friends and family, food stamps and assistance with utility bills. She said she doesn’t seek medical care when she’s sick. “I just don’t go,” she said.
Briefly, Ohio Republicans were all set to accept the Medicaid expansion until their Tea Party masters told them to refuse it. That’s all this is about. They’re scared.