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Ohio Medicaid Director Touts New Report During Cincinnati Visit

Tana Weingartner
Department of Medicaid Director Barbara Sears (upper left) discusses a study released last week about the effectiveness of Ohio's Medicaid expansion.

The director of Ohio's Medicaid Department, Barbara Sears, stopped in Cincinnati Tuesday to talk about a recently released study on the benefits of Medicaid expansion in the state.

The report commissioned by the department is a follow-up to the 2016 report required by the Ohio General Assembly to evaluate the impact of the 2014 Medicaid expansion.

"We're looking at its impact on quality of life, on work, on family stability," Sears says. "We're looking at its impact on lowering the uninsured number in the state of Ohio, which it's done by half, and we're looking at presenting some conversation about its impact in mental health and addiction."

Ohio Public Radio Statehouse Bureau Chief Karen Kasler reported on the study for NPR:

...the analysis shows Medicaid expansion has cut in half the number of uninsured Ohioans. Ninety-six percent of people in the program with opioid addiction got treatment, and 37 percent of smokers were able to quit. One-third reported improved health, including better access to medical care for high blood pressure and diabetes. ER visits went down 17 percent, and there was a 10 percent increase in the number of people seeing primary care doctors. And most recipients said Medicaid expansion made it easier to find work, earn more money and care for their families.

Sears is also making the case that the program will be affordable and manageable in the future.

She says the Cincinnati visit is about disseminating the study, but also useful for collecting feedback.

"We feel like the program has been very successful but no program should ever go without people looking at it and thinking critically about where we can improve it and where we can make it more dynamic for the individuals we serve."

Sears started her presentation with a video touting the program's effectiveness.

Matt Mayer with the think tank Opportunity Ohio opposes the program, saying it crowds other priorities out of the budget.

"You might like what Medicaid is doing but it has an offset that isn't being discussed, which is other things aren't being done because that money is going into Medicaid," Mayer tells WVXU.

He also thinks there are better ways, from a market standpoint, to tackle the healthcare issue.

"We've pushed for a decentralization - get the money and power out of Washington entirely and let the states have control over those funds that they would have here to design programs for each state, and then the 50 laboratories of competition will come up with better and more efficient solutions that we currently have."