Governor Kasich Violates Ohio Constitution in Medicaid Expansion Push

Governor Kasich (R-OH) is taking flak from conservatives for his plan to expand Medicaid in his state. Not only have his actions been foolish and irresponsible, but he also violated the principle of representative government and even broke the law in order to implement it.

Medicaid has been repeatedly proven to be a poorly run and ineffective program. Medicaid recipients do not see improvements in their physical health and Medicaid patients who undergo surgery are also at a greater risk than those without insurance. I could go on about how Medicaid will actually cost more for the states that have expanded it under the new health care law or that there is no guarantee that the federal government will keep its promise to reimburse states at 90-100% of their added costs, but I really want to focus on the shady tactics Kasich used to expand Medicaid.

Earlier this year, the Republican-dominated Ohio legislature passed a budget that prohibited Governor Kasich from expanding Medicaid without approval from the legislature.  Instead of respecting the will of his constituents, the Governor used a line-item veto to remove that stipulation.

Knowing that he could not force Medicaid expansion through the Ohio General Assembly, Kasich decided to push Medicaid expansion through by using a virtually unknown committee, known as the Controlling Board, in an attempt to bypass the legislature. This board consists of the Director of Budget and Management, the Chairman of the House Finance and Appropriations Committee, the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and four more members of the General Assembly.

The fact that Governor Kasich went to the Controlling Board is unconstitutional. According to Article II of the Ohio Constitution, “The legislative power of the state shall be vested in a General Assembly consisting of a Senate and House of Representatives but the people reserve to themselves the power to propose to the General Assembly laws and amendments to the constitution, and to adopt or reject the same at the polls on a referendum vote.” Although the board is mostly made up of members from the General Assembly, it does not have the same legislative authority.

Also, the purpose of the board is primarily to transfer funds within executive agencies or for emergency purposes, but it is specifically prohibited from acting “for the purpose of effecting new or changed levels of program service not authorized by the general assembly.” Since the legislature voted on a budget that prohibited the governor from expanding Medicaid without their approval, the board clearly overstepped its authority.

There is a glimmer of hope for constitutionalists, however, because a major lawsuit has been filed to block this action. If the plaintiffs win, it would not only keep Ohio free of the gigantic financial burden of Medicaid expansion, but it would also uphold the rule of law.  However, if the Ohio Supreme Court upholds Governor Kasich’s actions, its consequences would reach further than Ohioans’ pocketbooks. It would send a signal to future governors that they can pass whatever laws they want and blatantly ignore the will of the General Assembly.

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