Now that the Ohio Supreme Court has made a decision on Medicaid expansion, it appears it’s here to stay - at least for now. After the Medicaid expansion vote before the Controlling Board in October, the lawsuit was filed and then was fast-tracked to get a ruling by the end of the year so there were no oral arguments before the justices. Four of them agreed that the Controlling Board had the authority to approve spending $2.5 billion federal dollars on Medicaid expansion. The other three dissenting justices wanted to dismiss the case.
Maurice Thompson of the conservative 1851 Center for Constitutional Law filed the lawsuit on behalf of six Republican lawmakers and two anti-abortion groups. He said in an interview in October this was the largest dollar request the Controlling Board has ever heard, and he also felt it was as the largest policy request ever. And he felt the constitutionality of the vote was in doubt.
“The only reason the Controlling Board’s decisions are constitutional is that the Controlling Board is required to act consistent with the General Assembly’s intent.”
But in the majority opinion, Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor wrote that lawmakers’ intent wasn’t clear in the final budget, since Gov. John Kasich vetoed a provision that had passed the House and Senate banning Medicaid expansion, but the legislature could have overridden that veto. Meanwhile, Medicaid expansion has been proceeding, and while its future is certain for now, it’s not forever, according to Brian Rothenberg with Progress Ohio, who talked about that in an interview in October.
“The bottom line is this isn’t going to cost Ohioans money for the next three years," says Rothenberg. "If it does go up or there’s a problem with it, it’s not a permanent activity. It can be changed – we can alter it. It’s only as long as the budget lasts.”
That’s something that possibly could have been changed with a ballot issue that Medicaid expansion backers wanted to put before voters. But they announced earlier this month that they were abandoning that effort, saying the Controlling Board’s vote rendered their initiative unnecessary.