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February 26, 2013

JOHN SEEWER

Associated Press

TOLEDO — Several tea party groups in Ohio say they’ll work to stop the state from expanding Medicaid coverage for low-income residents, arguing it will be too costly and won’t reduce high health care costs down the road.

Leaders of two dozen tea party organizations sent a letter to Republican Gov. John Kasich telling him that they’re against his Medicaid proposal.

“There is no such thing as ‘free money,’ and borrowing taxpayer dollars to pay for an expanded entitlement program does not solve the long term problem of affordable health care,” said Marianne Gasiecki, a co-leader of the Tea Party Patriots in Ohio.

Their stance isn’t a surprise since most conservative groups oppose President Barack Obama’s health care law, which makes Medicaid expansion a key part of the plan.

State lawmakers, who must approve the expansion, are hearing details about the plan included in Kasich’s two-year budget proposal.

The director of Ohio’s Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services told the House finance committee on Tuesday that expanding Medicaid would reduce wait times for counseling and other services and save the state money.

Tracy Plouck, director of the department, said many Ohio residents who receive mental health and addiction treatment paid for by the state and local governments would be eligible for those services through Medicaid if the expansion is approved.

“Once these newly eligible Ohioans are enrolled, Medicaid coverage for clinical services will free up statewide an estimated $70 million annually in county levy and state subsidy dollars,” she said.

The governor has said that expansion will allow the state to get back Ohio residents’ tax dollars from the federal government, which would pay the entire cost of the expansion for the first three years.

The state would see $13 billion from the federal government over the next seven years to cover those newly eligible for Medicaid, according to the Kasich administration. Roughly 366,000 Ohio residents would be eligible for coverage under the expansion beginning in 2014.

But many Republicans are leery of the new federal health care law and its cost.