Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s Obamacare expansion shattered enrollment projections in its first year, and reliance on the welfare program keeps growing.
There were 634,526 Ohioans enrolled in the Obamacare expansion in September — an increase of more than 140,000 since January — according to the Ohio Department of Medicaid.
For the 21 months Kasich’s Obamacare expansion has been in effect, the program has grown much faster than Ohio’s economy.
Pitching Obamacare expansion to the Ohio General Assembly in 2013, the Kasich administration estimated 447,000 would enroll by fiscal year 2020. Actual enrollment exceeded 620,000 by the time fiscal year 2015 ended in June.
Kasich implemented Obamacare expansion after vetoing a legislative ban on the policy, despite publication of a National Bureau of Economic Research study finding Tennessee’s employment increased when the state removed working-age adults from Medicaid.
The Foundation for Government Accountability and other free-market groups warned against extending Medicaid benefits — which come with no work requirements — to every Ohioan whose income is at or below 138 percent of the poverty line.
FGA expects budget-busting enrollment in Ohio and elsewhere will deter more states from chasing Obamacare expansion funding.
“More able-bodied adults have signed up for Gov. Kasich’s unilateral ObamaCare expansion than the administration thought would ever sign up,” FGA research director Jonathan Ingram said in an email to Ohio Watchdog.
“That is costing taxpayers billions more than expected, but the problem goes beyond that,” Ingram said. “Kasich’s expansion will also have a lasting, negative impact on the state’s economy.”
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Ohio’s employment and labor force, Ingram added, “may worsen over the coming years, as Medicaid discourages work and, ultimately, shrinks the economy. Research suggests that in Ohio, as many as 93,000 able-bodied adults could drop out of the labor force as a result of Kasich’s expansion.”
In May testimony before the Ohio Senate, the Kasich administration reported only 43 percent of Ohio’s Obamacare expansion enrollees have jobs. The governor’s office did not respond to Ohio Watchdog questions about enrollment.
Kasich staffers weren’t the only Obamacare advocates to undershoot the target with their projections for Medicaid expansion enrollment.
Ohio’s pro-Obamacare newspapers widely disseminated a 2013 Health Policy Institute of Ohio study including enrollment estimates from Ohio State University researchers and the left-leaning Urban Institute.
UI projected 380,313 Ohioans would enroll in Obamacare expansion by fiscal year 2015. OSU researchers’ fiscal year 2015 estimate of 550,050 was low compared to actual June enrollment, but high relative to the monthly average for the full year.
OSU’s initial estimate of 609,264 enrollees in fiscal year 2016 is already falling short — but not as short as UI’s 2016 estimate of 497,799.
HPIO published revised enrollment projections last year, and communications manager Nick Wiselogel told Ohio Watchdog the organization will likely review enrollment trends over the coming months.
Because of backdated eligibility for Ohioans whose health care Medicaid will cover even though they haven’t enrolled in the program yet, September’s enrollment is likely to climb in future Ohio Department of Medicaid caseload reports.
In May, ODM reported there were 509,771 Obamacare expansion enrollees the preceding month. By the time the September caseload report was released, backdated eligibility had increased April enrollment to 606,524.
Comparing the numbers initially reported for each month, Obamacare expansion enrollment has grown by at least 10,000 per month since April — when the state was in the process of settling a lawsuit over ODM’s old method for dropping ineligible enrollees.
As a result of the lawsuit, ODM now uses a “passive redetermination” process, checking tax records and other government databases once a year to confirm Medicaid enrollees still qualify for benefits.
Most of the Ohioans on Medicaid under the expansion are working-age adults without children or disabilities. Before Obamacare, Medicaid was restricted to children, the elderly, the disabled, pregnant women and impoverished families.