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Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Current Congressional Health Care Proposals Don't Constitute 'Reform', Are Bad for Ohio
Like many of you, I have been following the national healthcare debate for the past several weeks, as the decisions made in Washington, D.C. will have a major impact on our state and its citizens. As legislative leaders work to reconcile the differences between the reform bills passed by House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, serious concerns are being raised about the potential costs to the states as well as proposals involving Medicaid and other health services.
I, too, am troubled by the proposals currently under consideration and the effects they could have on families, businesses and our state as a whole. That is why I have introduced Senate Concurrent Resolution 24, which urges the members of Ohio’s Congressional Delegation to oppose the federal healthcare bill.
While I believe that many reasons exist for Ohio’s Congressional representatives to vote against the healthcare bill, I am particularly concerned about the backroom deals that have been struck, the use of taxpayer funding for abortions as well as the high costs that could threaten Ohio’s future fiscal stability.
One of the main features of both reform bills is a requirement for states to expand Medicaid. Unfortunately, how states will pay for these additional people has not yet been determined. A publication by the National Governors Association and the National Conference of State Legislatures estimates this proposed expansion of Medicaid could cost the state $349 million for calendar years 2017 through 2019, a move that could result in tax increases or severe cuts to other state programs in order to keep a balanced budget.
Ohio spent $4.5 billion in state funds in fiscal year 2008 on Medicaid – roughly 22 percent of the state money in the General Revenue Fund. Placing new Medicaid mandates on our state without covering the increased costs would place even more pressure on our budget, which is already stretched thin due to the economic challenges we are facing. The current state budget was balanced with billions of dollars in one-time funds, money that will not be available when we begin deliberations next year on the state budget for fiscal years 2012-2013. The additional costs from healthcare reform would only exacerbate this problem.
In addition, the Senate version of the bill contains what some people have termed the “Cornhusker kick-back” – a provision that would have Ohio and other states paying for Nebraska’s Medicaid enrollees to the tune of millions of extra dollars. Senator Ben Nelson from Nebraska worked out a deal where in exchange for his “yes” vote on the bill, Nebraska received a permanent exemption from the state share of Medicaid expansion, which means taxpayers from the other 49 states will be on the hook for an additional $45 million in the first decade. Nelson and Sen. Carl Levin from Michigan also worked to insert a provision in the bill that will exempt non-profit insurers in their states from an excise tax. This unequal treatment of the states when it comes to doling out federal resources is outrageous and these sweetheart deals should be removed before final passage of the bill.
The Senate version of the healthcare reform bill also contains a provision that would use taxpayer dollars to fund insurance programs that cover abortions – a change to long-standing state and federal policies. Ohioans have overwhelmingly opposed the use of tax dollars to fund abortions in the past – a study by Ohio Right to Life found that 70 percent of Ohioans agree that their tax dollars should not be used to pay for abortions. It is my hope that legislative leaders will recognize this and remove this language from the bill.
The bottom line is this, the proposals currently under consideration by the Congress are not reform at all, and states such as Ohio could be saddled with tax increases and burdensome mandates as a result. Senate Concurrent Resolution 24 sends a message to those in Congress that they should delay a vote until changes are made that will bring about true reforms.
I would encourage everyone who cares about the future of health care in our country to contact their representatives in Congress and voice their opinions about the proposals under consideration. You can find contact information for your Congressperson or U.S. Senator by going to www.house.gov or www.senate.gov.
Senate Concurrent Resolution 24 has been assigned to the Senate Health, Human Services and Aging Committee, and I will be sure to keep you updated on its progress through the Legislature. As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office if you have questions or concerns about any state-related matter. You can reach my office by phone at (614) 466-9737, by e-mail at SD07@senate.state.oh.us or by writing State Senator Shannon Jones, Ohio Statehouse, 1 Capitol Square, Columbus, OH 43215. I look forward to hearing from you.