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Ohio's Medicaid expansion on the ballot in governor's race

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - SEPTEMBER 21:  Protestors carry signs as they demonstrate against proposed cuts to Medical and Medicare outside San Francisco city hall on September 21, 2011 in San Francisco, California.  Dozens of disabled people staged a protest against proposed cuts to Medical, Medicare and Medicaid programs.  (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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While a handful of deep, deep red states, including Idaho, are fighting to get Medicaid expansion on this fall’s ballot, Republican candidates for governor in not-so-red states are campaigning on taking it away from their states. In Maine, where a citizens’ initiative brought the expansion to the state, Republican would-be governors are helping the current executive, Paul LePage, thwart the will of the people.

In Ohio, where Gov. John Kasich was one of few Republican governors to take Medicaid expansion under Obamacare, the Republican candidates are competing on how to wreck it, in a state that has the second highest rate of opioid overdose deaths in the nation. The Republican frontrunner wants to impose harsh restrictions on Medicaid, and his challenger wants to do away with it completely. Kasich is working on a waiver application with the Trump administration to impose an 80 hour/month work requirement on Medicaid recipients. But that’s not tough enough for his would-be successors.

At a recent campaign stop in Youngstown, the GOP frontrunner to replace Kasich, Attorney General Mike DeWine, told TPM he plans to go even further if elected governor.

“Our waiver might be even bigger,” he said. “We would want the ability to really redesign Medicaid, in particular regard to the people covered under the Medicaid expansion.”

But when TPM asked what exactly his Medicaid vision would entail, asking if he would, for example, follow other states in making beneficiaries pay premiums and subject them to lifetime limits, DeWine demurred.

“We have not come up with all the details,” he said. “But we know that we want to put a lot more emphasis on prevention.” […]

DeWine’s primary opponent, Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, is running to his right, particularly on health care. On Tuesday, she released an ad vowing to “end John Kasich’s Medicaid expansion.”

Though Taylor is trailing DeWine in recent polls, endorsements from national arch-conservatives like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) have boosted her campaign, prompting DeWine to publicly criticize her as “a conservative who has not really done things.”

The Democrats, Richard Cordray and Dennis Kucinich, are of course both vowing to keep the expansion and make health care better in the state. Cordray calls the work requirements Kasich is pursuing “really stupid.” He goes on: “It’s a health care program. It’s not a work program. […] First of all, most of those people are disabled or they’re already looking for work. So it’s really a symbolic thing they want to do—a political statement. It’s going to apply to a very small slice [of people], but it’s really going to hurt that slice.”

For the eighth year in a row, health care is going to be dominating the election headlines. But this time around, Republicans screaming about Obamacare might have lost its magic with voters.

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