Last updated: August 24. 2013 2:09PM - 1133 Views

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LIMA — The men who run the region’s two largest medical providers and employers hope they still can change some minds.

Mike Swick, Lima Memorial Health System president and CEO, and St. Rita’s Health Partners CEO Bob Baxter addressed City Council on Monday, asking for a resolution supporting Medicaid expansion in Ohio.

Even though the Ohio House signaled Monday it will reject Gov. John Kasich’s proposal to accept the increased federal health care money, Baxter and Swick are asking people to keep lobbying for it.

Expanding Medicaid coverage eligibility to 138 percent of poverty would affect about 5,600 people in Allen County, Baxter said.

“Expanding coverage is good for uninsured Ohioans and good for the economy,” he said.

Ohio associations representing hospitals and physicians, along with the boards of St. Rita’s Medical Center and Lima Memorial, support the expansion.

“Locally, this means more to us than a dollars-and-cents issue; it’s about the health of our community,” Swick said. “People without health care coverage seek the most expensive place for care: the emergency room. Can you imagine going to the ER for a physical for a student to play sports?”

Swick also said expanding coverage would mean more people with access to primary care physicians, which should ultimately lower health care costs, as people go to a doctor’s office, not the ER, and seek preventative care and care for illnesses before they reach a critical stage.

Swick and Baxter said hospitals bear some of those costs through charitable care and writing off bad debt. They also pass on some of those costs in higher charges. Health care consumers also see higher insurance costs.

Both health systems are two of the largest employers in the county and region. Swick said that’s a factor, as the federal government will start to make cuts in funding it provides to hospitals for charitable care and bad debt. The expanded Medicaid dollars would offset those other federal cuts, Swick said.

Medicaid patients currently make up about 16 percent of hospital admissions, Baxter said. Medicaid pays about 83 percent of what a hospital bills for a Medicaid patient.

“It’s not too late, until there’s been final action,” Baxter said of the Ohio House’s decision to not include Kasich’s proposal in its own version of the budget. “Individuals talking to their legislators has an enormous impact.”

Swick said he understands concerns about the federal government not keeping its end of the funding bargain and Ohio getting stuck with the bill.

“But we can opt out if it gets to that point,” Swick said. “Right now, they’re trying to change Washington when we’re trying to take care of Ohio.”

Advocates for the expansion of health care coverage to the state’s working poor will hold a rally from noon to 1 p.m. Thursday at the Ohio Statehouse.

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