This week, Ohio Governor John Kasich’s administration asked the seven-member Ohio Controlling Board to appropriate federal Obamacare funds for the purpose of Medicaid expansion, bypassing the state legislature.
The Obama administration approved Ohio’s request to amend its Medicaid program so that people making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level ($32,499 for a household of four) would be covered. The state’s Medicaid director, John McCarthy, submitted the request Sept. 26 with a corresponding request for the Controlling Board to appropriate the federal funds without the approval of the Republican-controlled legislature, which has stalled Kasich’s plans for Medicaid expansion.
The Controlling Board consists of the chairs of the Senate and House Finance Committees (currently Republicans) and a Republican and Democrat from both houses. The director of the OMB (a Kasich appointee) serves as the board’s president. Generally, the board’s duties include transferring funds between line items or fiscal years, allowing for emergency funding, and approving grants and loans made by the Department of Development. There is speculation that the two Democrats and the Kasich appointee would vote for the Medicaid expansion, so Kasich would only need to secure one additional Republican vote to win approval from the board. Senate President Keith Faber, a Republican, said he believes Kasich has the authority to turn the decision over to the Controlling Board. “I’m certainly a defender of legislative rights, and I would think a better solution would be a legislative option, but the governor does have that authority,” he said.
However, questions remain about the authority of the board. The Ohio Revised Code prohibits the Controlling Board from carrying out any action “which does not carry out the legislative intent of the general assembly.” But Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols justified the action, saying, “Only the General Assembly can authorize Medicaid to spend funds in this way, either through a bill or the Controlling Board.” Kasich, vacationing in Europe, was not available for comment, the Dispatch reported.