WARREN - Expanding Medicaid coverage to thousands of Ohioans, despite being plucked from Gov. John Kasich's budget proposal, might still have life this legislative session.
Expanding the coverage more likely will come in a bill that's separate from the Republican governor's spending plan, Democrat state Sen. Capri Cafaro, a member of the Senate's Medicaid task force, told a group of mental health and drug addiction recovery officials Friday.
Lawmakers are at odds over whether Ohio should accept $13 billion from the federal government to fund the expansion, providing coverage to an estimated 300,000 people. Kasich, a Republican, included the expansion in his budget proposal, but Republicans in the Ohio House removed it before sending the budget bill to the Senate.
Instead, legislators left a ''placeholder'' in the version of the budget sent to the Senate, said state Rep. Tom Letson, allowing a spot for it be put back in the spending plan. But Letson, like Cafaro, sees lawmakers addressing the issue in a bill separate from the budget.
In Trumbull County, if the expansion happens, only 2 percent of residents would remain uninsured by 2015, according to numbers provided by Advocates for Ohio's Future. Also, through 2015, Trumbull County would see a 67 percent decrease in uninsured adults if Ohio extends coverage, according to the same group.
Letson, a Democrat from Warren, with Cafaro from Hubbard and state Rep. Sean O'Brien, D-Brookfield, spoke about Medicaid expansion, homelessness and addiction recovery services at the Trumbull County Mental Health and Recovery Board's legislative breakfast.
''Usually, there are two sides to the story, but in this case, there are four sides to the story and that is what makes this so difficult,'' Letson said of the Medicaid debate.
Also, Cafaro said that taking the issue to ballot for Ohioans to decide is a last resort, one she thinks would probably fail taking into consideration voter disapproval of the Affordable Care Act.