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Ohio’s Budget Goes to the Senate – a New Day for Advocates?

Ohio’s biennial budget for Fiscal Years 2016-17 (which begins July 1, 2015), as passed by the House last month, had serious ups and downs, from the health care perspective. However, advocates have a new day as the Senate takes its turn to influence the budget.

Senate leaders have indicated that they will be looking at both the House-revised and original versions of HB 64, as well as 2014 spending. For advocates, the message is that we should provide input both on provisions contained in HB 64 as introduced and in the substitute bill.

The Senate process is complicated, with different sections of the budget assigned to a number of committees holding hearings through May. The Senate Medicaid Committee will hear about the Medicaid program. MyCare Ohio will be considered by a special panel on May 20.  You can follow the committee on Twitter @OHSenMedicaid for the most current updates before and during committee hearings. A schedule of hearings can be found here.

UHCAN Ohio and its coalitions want senators to hear from their constituents on a number of issues:

  1. Ohio’s Medicaid program, with extended eligibility beginning in 2014, is working well to provide efficient, cost-effective coverage to over 510,000 newly enrolled Ohioans. We want the Senate to keep the current Medicaid program intact, with no new barriers or cuts.
  1. We would like to see coverage for pregnant women, women with breast and cervical cancer, and family planning services for people with incomes between 139-200% FPL restored. These were eliminated in the Governor’s budget and Substitute House Bill 64.
  2. We oppose the proposed Health Savings Accounts and work requirement added to Substitute House Bill 64 as putting obstacles in the way of people seeking needed health care and striving to rise out of poverty.
  3. We oppose the administration’s proposal to impose premiums on people on Medicaid with incomes above 100% FPL. Scads of research show that even small cost-sharing causes people to go without needed care. People will lose their coverage and only enroll again when they get sick.

MyCare Ohio:

  1. We are pleased that the language in the Governor’s budget eliminating Independent Providers (IPs) from submitting Medicaid claims was removed. We support the administration’s proposed language creating a comprehensive process and timeline for helping all consumers who prefer IPs enroll in self-direction with a broad stakeholder advisory board, including consumers and advocates.
  2. We support funding in the budget for an early evaluation of patient experiences in MyCare Ohio. In order to improve the demonstration, we need information now on how it’s working.
  3. We would also like increased funding for the Ombudsman program in order to have at least one full-time ombudsman in each region and so that the regional ombudsman can introduce themselves to MyCare Ohio enrollees, letting them know to call the Ombudsman when they can’t resolve a problem with their plan.

We’ll post blogs to let you know what’s happening and what issues we’re looking at as the budget moves through the Senate and on to the Conference Committee.  Ohio law requires that the Governor sign the budget into law by June 30th, or the legislature needs to vote to continue the current budget. Odds are high that the budget process will spill into July. Consumer input will be critical.

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