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Redfern key player in Medicaid expansion

Tom Jackson • Oct 18, 2013 at 3:10 PM

Redfern said he’ll be voting “Yes” at Monday’s meeting to decide the issue.


As the state representative for Erie and Ottawa counties and the chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, he’s also a member of Ohio’s Controlling Board, a seven-member body that makes many decisions on state spending.

Despite this, the group doesn’t get a lot of publicity.

On Monday, however, Kasich is asking the Controlling Board to approve releasing state funds that would allow the state toexpand Medicaid to close to 300,000 Ohioans by raising the income guidelines and making other changes, such as allowing single people without dependents to receive Medicaid.

The governor took the step after failing to get the Ohio General Assembly to approve the expansion, a key part of ObamaCare.

Redfern said he will vote yes, despite the fact he believes Kasich is taking the wrong approach.

“Although I view this process through the Controlling Board as a subversion of the legislative process, I will support the expansion of Medicaid because of my past support of ObamaCare,” Redfern said.

He said he doesn’t like the path that was chosen, but he sees no other choice in light of Kasich’s “political weakness.” Redfern contends Kasich could have forged coalitions of Democrats and Republicans in the Ohio General Assembly to get Medicaid expansion passed.

The governor’s spokesman, Rob Nichols, defended the move.

“Only the General Assembly can authorize Medicaid to spend funds in this way, either through a bill or the Controlling Board,” Nichols said. “The administration has been preparing to implement this change when the General Assembly gives its OK and we’ll be ready.”

The Controlling Board has seven members. With Redfern, the others are Sen. Bill Coley, R-Liberty Township; Sen. Chris Widener, R-Springfield; Sen. Tom Sawyer, D-Akron; Rep. Ron Amstutz, R-Wooster; Rep. Cliff Rosenberger, R-Clarksville; andRon Cole, a policy advisor for the Office of Budget and Management.

Assuming Sawyer sides with fellow Democrat Redfern, and Cole, a Kasich appointee, backs the governor, Kasich must still pick up one vote from a Republican lawmaker.

Amstutz released a statement criticizing the governor’s move.

“I have grave concerns about the place, the time and the substance of this proposed Controlling Board action,” he said.

Pete Schade, Erie County’s health commissioner, said he’s optimistic the board will approve the governor’s proposal, although he says that’s “conjecture.”

Redfern said Wednesday he’s received about 500 phone calls in the past two days and about 200 emails from people trying to sway his vote on the matter.

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