The Hill: Ohio’s ObamaCare freeze could change the repeal debate

The Ohio senate did something historic this week. As part of its budget, it froze enrollment in the state’s exploding ObamaCare expansion, effective 2018. This move will not only protect Ohio’s truly needy, but will surely influence the ongoing debate over ObamaCare repeal in Washington D.C.

Ohio’s ObamaCare expansion has been hemorrhaging for some time. The Kasich administration promised enrollment in the program would never exceed 447,000 non-disabled, working-age adults. But, as of last month, enrollment has surpassed 725,000, showing no signs of stopping.

This enrollment surge has created a cost explosion as well. In fact, the latest data from the state indicate the program is nearly $7 billion over budget and that number is expected to climb to more than $8 billion by year’s end. Altogether, the program has cost nearly twice what was promised when implemented.

Ohio taxpayers really began to feel the pinch in January when ObamaCare’s “free ride” ended and the state started paying five percent of the expansion costs.

Every penny that goes to expansion is a penny that can’t go to education, public safety, or services for seniors, poor children, and individuals with disabilities.

But thankfully for taxpayers and Ohio’s truly needy citizens, the legislature is stepping up to the plate with a bold solution.

The proposal is simple: stop accepting new applicants for the state’s ObamaCare expansion in 2018 while allowing those currently on the program to gradually cycle off as their incomes rise.

This commonsense freeze would help more than 300,000 Ohioans regain their independence – and that’s just in the first year. After five years, more than 500,000 Ohioans would be back on their feet, freed from the welfare trap.

Research has shown that non-disabled adults who leave welfare more than double their incomes, more than offsetting lost welfare benefits and leaving them better off than they were before.

An enrollment freeze would also have massive positive implications for the truly needy, many of whom have been left behind without the care they need while the state moved hundreds of thousands of able-bodied adults to the front of the line. If Ohio doesn’t get its expansion under control, this may simply be the beginning of a long nightmare for the truly vulnerable.

Ohio’s efforts are also instructive for the ongoing debate over ObamaCare repeal and replace in Washington D.C.

Earlier this year, Arkansas made national waves after state Rep. Josh Miller successfully shepherded a freeze bill through the House. Shortly thereafter, congressional leaders began discussions about including a freeze as part of federal health care reform.

Now, with Congress poised to roll back expansion funding altogether, Ohio’s freeze push is a timely reminder that states are anxious to rein in the failing ObamaCare expansion and they have innovative ideas to get it done. Congress should empower them to do just that – give states long-awaited flexibility to rein in and reform failing welfare programs without having to go to Washington to ask for permission.

Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof, Senator Bill Coley, the rest of Senate leadership, and Representative Wes Goodman have been instrumental in this new push to reverse the damage done by ObamaCare and protect the truly needy. In so doing, they’re sending a message to Congress and other states: it’s time to act.

This article originally appeared at The Hill on June, 23, 2017.


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