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Veterans advocates push for Ohio to expand Medicaid

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — People who identify themselves as dvocates for Ohio’s veterans urged the state to expand Medicaid Monday.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) includes funding provisions and other provisions that encourage states to expand Medicaid eligibility.

Medicaid expansion would help veterans along with other low-income and moderate-income state residents, because many veterans are not eligible for free care from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the advocates said.

Medicaid expansion “will help thousands of Ohio veterans and their families, who right now have no health insurance, simply due to when they served in the military,” said retired Air Force Col. Tom Moe, director of the Ohio Department of Veterans Service.

Some veterans are unable to get health care through veterans affairs because they didn’t serve during wartime or they have a service-connected injury that’s less than a 50 percent disability, speakers said.

Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich supports expanding Medicaid and called for it in his budget proposal. House Republican leaders took the provision out of the spending plan and are reviewing the idea separately.

Some opponents are against the idea of expanding any goverment program. Some fear the federal government will go back on promises it has made to cover most of the cost of the PPACA Medicaid expansion effort.

Ohio House Speaker William Batchelder recently said his chamber doesn’t have a timeline for acting on expansion legislation.

He said many House Republicans support adding a drug test in order to become eligible for Medicaid, though other ideas are also being discussed.

PPACA expanded Medicaid to cover low-income people making about $15,400 a year for an individual. The provision mainly benefits low-income adults who do not have children and can’t get Medicaid in most states.

Medicaid also covers mental health services.

Victor Wilson, of the Ohio National Guard Association, said expansion would be a huge step to make “lifesaving mental health services available to those veterans who may need it the most.”

A U.S. Supreme Court decision last summer made the expansion optional for states but kept in place a powerful financial incentive. The federal government will fully fund the expansion for the first three years, gradually phasing down to 90 percent by 2020 — still well above Ohio’s current level of 64 percent.

Roughly 366,000 Ohioans will be eligible for coverage beginning in 2014 by expanding Medicaid, the health program for the poor that already provides care for one of every five residents in the state.

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