By TOM GILLIS Associated PressIn what could be the biggest blow to his state’s prescription drug industry in years, Ohio Gov.
John Kasich announced on Monday that he was cutting millions of dollars from Medicaid, a key federal safety net program for the poor and disabled, and shifting the state’s Medicaid money toward drug manufacturers.
The move, a response to an unprecedented spike in Medicaid spending in Ohio in recent years, has left many in the state reeling and prompted criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike, as well as many of the state�s top medical providers.
The state was hit hard by a surge in opioid-related deaths in the last year and a half, a trend that prompted Ohio to cut its Medicaid program by $1.6 billion in 2018 and 2019.
Kasich has also proposed eliminating the Ohio Medicaid program entirely.
The governor, a Republican, has also cut a program to help people who work to pay for private insurance.
“I have decided to cut Ohio�s Medicaid funding by over $1 billion over the next four years.
This will help keep the program afloat for the long haul,” Kasich said in a statement.”
Ohio is already the worst state in the nation for Medicaid funding,” said Mike Smerling, executive director of the Ohio Policy Institute, a nonprofit think tank that is critical of Kasich�s leadership.
“This will be a devastating blow for Ohioans.”
Smerling said Kasich� s decision was particularly hard on Ohio� s poor.
He said the state has about 13,000 low-income people on Medicaid, compared with around 6,000 in neighboring Pennsylvania and about 6,700 in Florida.
Smerlin called Kasich� move �an affront to the working poor of Ohio.
They�re already struggling. They don�t have a lot of money to live on and they have to work harder to pay the bills.
“Simmerling said the governor should have focused on Ohioans on Medicaid who needed help the most.”
The governor should be focused on the working people who need help the least, and that is the Medicaid program,” he said.
The Kasich administration says the cut in Medicaid money will be phased in over four years, with the majority of cuts taking place in 2019 and 2020.
The move will cost $9.3 billion in 2020, the most recent year for which data is available.
In response, the American Medical Association, which represents the nation�s most prominent medical professionals, urged Kasich to reconsider his decision.
The group said Kasich should �step up and lead the way in improving Medicaid coverage and access to high-quality care.�The AMA said Kasich has made no effort to provide health care choices for Ohio residents, and has failed to provide an adequate alternative to private insurance coverage.
The Ohio Medical Association also accused Kasich of being �disdainful of patients and the health care system in general and not taking the public health threat seriously.�The AMA is calling on Ohio to restore Medicaid funding immediately and ensure access to comprehensive and timely health care for all Ohioans,� the group said in the statement.