Probable Republican presidential candidate John Kasich, who as Ohio governor successfully pushed Medicaid expansion in his state, said in Nashville Thursday that he hopes Gov. Bill Haslam can do the same in Tennessee.
“I’m very big on Haslam, I think he’s really smart. But you have to all work those people in the legislature, and you’ve got to tell them this is what it’s all about,” Kasich said in speaking with several doctors and administrators at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
“The problem that a lot of you have is you get upset with them, and then when they don’t do what you want them to do, then you go and you support them. You’re all the same: You’re all worried about whether they’re going to like us the next day. Either you mean it or you don’t.”
…”Part of the problem is people develop an ideological opposition and then don’t want to be confused by the facts,” Kasich said.
“I think we are a healthier state, a more inclusive state, a better state and a more unified state as a result of this. I think you’ll get it done here. I don’t know who holds it up. But it’s always a struggle.”
At the same time, Kasich said states should have some flexibility in how they spend their money: For Ohio, people are eligible for Medicaid if they earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line. Kasich said there are discussions about dropping that to 100 percent, then combining the leftover funds with a “modest state subsidy” to help people earning between 100 percent and 138 percent of the federal poverty level purchase coverage on the private health care exchange.
Opponents to any form of Medicaid expansion in Tennessee disagreed with Kasich’s analysis. Justin Owen of The Beacon Center of Tennessee, a conservative think tank that successfully helped defeat Insure Tennessee this year, blasted Kasich for expanding Medicaid in Ohio.
“Gov. Kasich’s Medicaid expansion under Obamacare has been an abysmal failure. Rather than come to our state and shill for Tennessee to duplicate Ohio’s disasters, Gov. Kasich should go back home and try to fix the mess he’s created,” Owen said in a statement.
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“To me it’s both a moral issue and an issue of arithmetic. We manage our Medicaid program extremely well. It’s growing by only 4 percent a year, which may be some of the lowest in the country, without cutting benefits or cutting people off the rolls. We consider that to be good and it gives everyone a chance to be included and be lifted,” Kasich said after meeting Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, and Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, as part of a Southern swing before his July 21 presidential campaign announcement. Haslam is out of town but Kasich said he texted his welcome.