Those in need can sign up earlier than expected for Ohio's expanded Medicaid program

by MARC KOVAC CAPITAL BUREAU CHIEF Published:

Columbus -- Needy Ohioans will be able to sign up online in a few weeks for health coverage through Gov. John Kasich's expanded Medicaid program.

The administration announced this past week that the new online system (www.benefits.ohio.gov) will be available for enrollments on Dec. 9, about a month earlier than originally anticipated.

Ohioans can access the website now to see if they're eligible for coverage; those who earn too much will be directed to the federal health insurance marketplace (www.healthcare.gov).

State officials have been training county case managers on the new system to assist residents wanting to sign up for benefits.

"Since February, the Kasich administration has been joined by a coalition of health care and business stakeholders and advocates in an effort to extend coverage to more uninsured Ohioans," John McCarthy, director of the Ohio Department of Medicaid, said in a released statement. "Next month we will begin the next phase in that process, which is connecting our neighbors with the care they need to live better lives."

Late last month, the state Controlling Board, on a 5-2 vote, enabled state Medicaid officials to spend about $2.5 billion in federal funds to cover health care services for Ohioans earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level ($15,856 for an individual, $32,499 for a family of four).

The Kasich administration requested the appropriation after getting federal approval to expand Medicaid eligibility.

A half a dozen conservative lawmakers and two anti-abortion groups have filed suit against the administration and the Controlling Board, saying the latter did not have authority to sign off on the new spending and that such decisions must be decided by the full Ohio House and Senate.

Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at mkovac@dixcom.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.

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