Last updated: August 25. 2013 5:09AM - 522 Views

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LIMA — Dozens held green balloons, bold signs and wore green shirts to rally for Medicaid expansion Monday morning in front of state Rep. Matt Huffman’s Market Street office.

Janis Sunderhaus, CEO of Health Partners of Western Ohio, said the Affordable Health Care Act and Medicaid expansion isn’t perfect, but it’s a great starting point in order to provide coverage for about 370,000 Ohioans who don’t have health insurance.

“That will get 370,000 Ohioans covered for preventative visits, counseling services, dental visits. All of those things that, quite honestly, people living on $7.60 an hour can’t afford,” Sunderhaus told a crowd of more than 30 people standing on the Market Street sidewalk. “Who can afford, if you’re living on $7.60 an hour, to take a day off work to go pay a dentist to go clean your teeth?”

“It’s not happening,” a woman said in the crowd.

Sunderhaus added there are states surrounding Ohio that have passed Medicaid expansion: Indiana, West Virginia, Kentucky and Michigan.

“What that means for us is we’re going to be centered around people that are going to be taking care of poor people with their tax dollars,” she said. “Our (federal) tax dollars are going to be taking care of their poor people. Just not in our state.”

Mike Schoenhofer, director of the Health and Recovery Services Board of Allen, Auglaize and Hardin counties, said many of the patients treated for mental health and drug addiction would be covered if Ohio passes Medicaid expansion. That would allow the counties to help more people, which funds treatment for some patients who qualify.

Schoenhofer spoke about people who die from opiate overdose (more common than dying in a traffic accident in 2012) and suicide in the state (the third leading cause of death in 2012.) He talked about how Medicaid expansion can assist those individuals, how it needs to be done now, and that Huffman and state Sen. President Keith Faber, R-Celina, need to understand that.

“Maybe they don’t understand, maybe they don’t believe what we really believe in, in terms of getting this done now. But we really need to convince them that this is an important issue for all of us here,” Schoenhofer said. “This affects the lives of people we know and love.”

In addition to employees from Schoenhofer’s and Sunderhaus’ organizations, concerned citizens and employees with Coleman, Lima UMADAOP, the Partnership for Violence-Free Families and Family Resource Center attended the rally.

A petition being passed around contained more than 3,000 signatures in support of the expansion.

Huffman was in Washington, D.C., for most of the day Monday and had heard about the rally from other lawyers at his Lima office.

He’s against the legislation. However, Huffman said, he’s spoken with Sunderhaus at length, through meetings, phone calls and text message about the Medicaid expansion bill. He’s also talked with Schoenhofer.

“My view of this thing really is that we need to find new ways of delivering health care to low and no income people. The Health Partners is a perfect example,” Huffman said, referring to Sunderhaus’ facility.

The Health Partners of Western Ohio provides an array of health services for low-income individuals. Like Schoenhofer’s group, they also pay for the care of some of their patients.

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