Last updated: August 23. 2013 10:51PM - 521 Views

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LIMA — Medicaid expansion supporters — including representatives from Ohio Right to Life, Ohio Chamber of Commerce and the Mental Health Services Board of Allen, Auglaize and Hardin counties — are hopeful.

“What we’ve seen over our advocacy over the past several months is that there’s a gradual shift of legislators, both Democrat and Republican,” said Mike Gonidakis, executive director with Ohio Right to Life, a conservative organization supporting women. “Initially, it was a lot of opposition and confusion, to what we’re seeing now is a shift to more openness and a shift to support. And that’s bipartisan support.”

Leaders from the three groups spoke Wednesday during a conference call organized by the Ohio Medicaid Expansion Alliance.

Gov. John Kasich introduced his Medicaid expansion plan in February. Since then, Ohio politicians have been discussing and researching the issue. Opponents argue the plan isn’t financially feasible in the long term, that sending the bill to the federal government essentially sends it over to the taxpayers.

Keith Lake, with the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, said his organization has supported the expansion plan because it would be beneficial for employers, particularly when it comes to tackling Affordable Healthcare Act provisions that go into effect in 2014.

“By protecting some employers from these penalties with expansion, we think we will mitigate at least one of the Affordable Care Act’s harmful effects,” Lake said. “And while we understand lawmakers are concerned about the future costs of Medicaid expansion, we’ve been asking them to understand that any projection of the costs should also reflect the very real costs of these penalties to the employer community.”

Mike Schoenhofer, executive director of the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board, said the issue stretches beyond political party affiliation. He also explained how it would help residents who utilize mental health and addiction services.

“People with mental illness or addiction have not had access to health care for many, many years, decades, which impacts their ability to recover,” Schoenhofer said. “This Medicaid expansion will really have a life-saving impact on all of our residents.”

With the expansion issue being in the spotlight for several months, Lake said he believes the expansion plan has gained more traction.

“There’s certainly a more broad awareness of the complexities of this issue, and all the different layers. … It’s not a clear cut, black and white issue,” Lake said. “In February, there was significantly less understanding of all the different nuances.”

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