AMCNO Attends Rally at Statehouse to Oppose Freeze on Medicaid Expansion Enrollment

AMCNO staff was on hand at the Save Medicaid, Save Lives Rally held at the Statehouse on July 5. More than 1,500 people showed their support for Medicaid expansion enrollment, urging lawmakers not to override Gov. John Kasich’s veto in the budget bill (HB 49) and place a freeze on enrollment.

The rally was organized by the Ohio Medicaid Coalition, which originally formed in 2013 to support Gov. Kasich’s initial proposal to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and is comprised of more than 200 organizations, including the AMCNO, which has been a member since the coalition’s inception. The group continues to focus on the goal of retaining coverage for the hundreds of thousands of Ohioans who have obtained coverage under the Medicaid expansion.

Several speakers discussed the positive impact of the Medicaid expansion during the rally. Reverend Tim Ahrens, senior minister of First Congregational Church in Columbus, served as the event’s moderator, and opened the rally by saying that providing Medicaid coverage is the right thing to do and that by not providing it, 500,000 people would now be left behind. “We need to allow people to have the tools they need to survive and thrive in Ohio,” he said. 

Dr. James Misak, an assistant professor of family medicine at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and a practicing family physician for almost 30 years, stressed that Medicaid works. He has seen many of his patients benefit from coverage, and he and these patients call the expansion a “lifesaver.” The uninsured population was cut in half through the expansion, and the cost of care decreased by one-third, because patients were able to receive coordinated care for chronic illnesses that would have been costly if left untreated. Dr. Misak added that Ohio’s program is one of the most efficient in the country, and he urged the crowd to contact their legislators to share their personal stories of how they were helped by the expansion.  

Chuck Oliver, a counselor at a community health center in Portsmouth, struggled with addiction himself but found the assistance he needed through Medicaid services. “I know first-hand the struggle of addiction and how vital healthcare coverage and access to care is on fighting addiction and getting your life back on track,” he said.

Natalie Skilliter is an owner of The Corner Kitchen in Dayton, and she said, “as a small business owner, I see the value in providing healthcare coverage.” Of her 22 employees, one-third receives Medicaid coverage. She and her husband have also benefited from health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. “Basic health care is a basic right for everyone,” she said, adding, “I urge our representatives to put people over politics” and not override the veto.

Regina Hillman of Columbus discussed how she has finally been able to properly take care of her severely disabled 19-year-old son with assistance from the expansion. “It was only through expansion that he now has access to the medication, counseling, and intensive support he needs,” she said. “Expansion has been the light at the end of a very long tunnel. I don’t know what we’ll do if we lose coverage.”

Rev. Ahrens encouraged participants to reach out to their representatives through social media to share their stories and to urge them to say no to the override. “The sign of a great state is when we stand together,” he said.

Advocates have vowed to continue to educate elected officials on the cost of a freeze on enrollment to the healthcare economy and the overall health and safety of the state and its citizens.

For now, the House has not chosen to override the veto on this portion of the bill. The AMCNO will continue to follow this issue and report back to our members when updates are available.

To view photos from the rally on the AMCNO Facebook page, click here. You can also see the photos on our Twitter feed, www.twitter.com/AMCNOTABLES.



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