Lawmakers: Medicaid should cover pediatric drug addiction services

Published: Friday, May 19, 2017 @ 12:04 PM
Updated: Friday, May 19, 2017 @ 12:04 PM

            Lawmakers: Medicaid should cover pediatric drug addiction services. Photo by Chris Stewart

Ohio’s two senators are introducing a bill aimed at helping newborns born addicted recover in a supportive setting.

Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Rob Portman, R-Ohio along with Sens. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va. and Angus King, I-Maine, have reintroduced a bill that would recognize allow Medicaid to cover pediatric drug addiction recovery services in both hospitals and residential pediatric recovery facilities.

SPECIAL PROJECT: Addicted at birth

The bill - which costs taxpayers nothing - would allow babies suffering from neonatal abstinence syndrome - or withdrawal - to receive quality care in residential facilities. The syndrome is a withdrawal condition often caused by use of opioids and other addictive substances in pregnant women.

In the House, Reps. Tim Ryan, Niles, Mike Turner, R-Dayton and Reps. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., and Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., have introduced a companion bill.

Among the facilities currently treating babies born with withdrawal is Brigid’s Path, in Dayton.

Traditionally, babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome have been treated in the neonatal intensive care unit, where treatment costs are more than five times the cost of treating other newborns. The lawmakers say that the NICU - with its bright lights and loud noises - is not the ideal place for babies suffering from withdrawal. Residential pediatric recovery facilities, they argue, offer an alternative more conducive to treating newborns with the syndrome.

Portman said the Ohio Department of Health estimates roughly 84 babies are being treated for drug withdrawal in Ohio hospitals every day.

RELATED: More help aimed at helping babies, mothers

“We must ensure that Ohio moms and babies have access to residential treatment facilities that specialize in giving them the specific kind of care they need and at a lower cost to taxpayers,” said Brown.

In 2015, the Ohio Department of Health released data that there had been 2,174 hospital admissions for neonatal abstinence syndrome, and reported that an average of 84 infants were being treated for drug withdrawal by Ohio hospitals every day.

Ohio Sen. Rob Portman a ‘no’ on Senate health care bill

Published: Tuesday, June 27, 2017 @ 2:18 PM
Updated: Tuesday, June 27, 2017 @ 2:19 PM

FILE - In this Tuesday, June 20, 2017 file photo, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, pauses for a reporter's question as he arrives at a closed-door GOP strategy session on the Republican health care overhaul with Vice President Mike Pence, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and others, at the Capitol in Washington. Days after it's release, Portman faces intense pressure back home to oppose the Senate’s GOP health care bill.
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File

Less than an hour after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced he would pull the Senate version of a bill to replace the 2010 health care bill known as Obamacare, Sen. Rob Portman announced his opposition to the current draft. 

"I am committed to creating a better health care system that lowers the cost of coverage, provides access to quality care, and protects the most vulnerable in our society," Portman said. "The Senate draft before us includes some promising changes to reduce premiums in the individual insurance market, but I continue to have real concerns about the Medicaid policies in this bill, especially those that impact drug treatment at a time when Ohio is facing an opioid epidemic."

He said the Senate draft "falls short and therefore I cannot support it in its current form. 

RELATED: Short on votes, Senate delays vote on health care

"In the days and weeks ahead, I’m committed to continue talking with my colleagues about how we can fix the serious problems in our health care system while protecting Ohio’s most vulnerable citizens.”

Portman issued the statement along with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito who also announced her opposition to the draft. They released it even as a bus carrying Republican senators headed to the White House for a meeting on health care with President Donald Trump. 

McConnell, who had planned to hold a vote on the Senate bill this week, announced he was delaying that vote during a GOP caucus lunch of Senate Republicans Tuesday afternoon. Senators including Rand Paul of Kentucky and Susan Collins of Maine were among a handful of Republican senators who had already balked at the Senate's version of the bill to replace the 2010 Affordable Care Act. A Congressional Budget Office report Monday that found some 22 million would lose health-care coverage over the next decade under the Senate bill, though the bill would lower the deficit by $321 billion through 2026.

“This is a very complicated subject,” McConnell said. “I’m still optimistic we’re going to get there.” He said Democrats were “not interested in participating” in negotiations over the bill.

But Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said “we’re the first to say the Affordable Care Act needs improvement.” Democrats were not, however, willing to kick millions of people off insurance, he said.

The last-minute decision to pull the bill before an expected Thursday vote mirrors how the House earlier this year had to pull its initial bill repealing Obamacare before later narrowly passing a bill to replace to 2010 health care law in May. 

RELATED: American Medical Association poll: Ohioans don’t want cuts to Medicaid

Portman was among those who had expressed concern about the bill. But Portman did not say he planned to vote against the bill until late Tuesday. He did, however, express concerns that the Senate bill would roll back a Medicaid expansion that allowed Ohio Gov. John Kasich to insure 700,000 more Ohioans. Portman worries such a roll-back would cause the state's drug-addicted population to lose coverage.

Kasich, in D.C. for a board meeting with Siemans, told reporters at the National Press Club that he does not support the Senate bill as written. He said he had urged Portman not to accept “a few billion” to fight the nation’s opioid epidemic in exchange for drastic cuts to Medicaid, saying that the former would be “like spitting in the ocean.”

Kasich said he last spoke to Portman, who may be a key swing vote on the Senate health-care vote that could be taken on as early as this week, few weeks back.

“He knows what my concerns are,” he said, but cautioned “I don’t cast his vote.”

RELATED: Gov. Kasich urges Sen. Portman to fight health care bill

Kasich — who also objected to the House bill that passed in May — said the current bill is “unacceptable” and lacks the resources to cover the mentally ill, addicted and working poor. He supports making mental health and addiction services “essential benefits” that states are required to offer, but is more concerned that the drastic cuts in expenditures will leave people without coverage.

“If they don’t want to improve this bill, I’m not for this bill,” he said.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, who opposed the bill, applauded the delay, saying it “will gie the people of Ohio more time to see how it impacts their lives.”

Even as the delay occurred, a survey released Tuesday shows that just 14 percent of registered voters in Ohio want Congress to scale back federal dollars for Medicaid.

The survey, sponsored by the American Medical Association and conducted by the Republican polling firm of Public Opinion Strategies, strongly suggests voters in Ohio are sharply opposed to many of the features of the health-care bill on the Senate floor backed to Republican leaders and President Donald Trump.

RELATED: Kasich calls for bipartisan talks on health care in Congress

The poll shows that 47 percent of Ohio voters say federal and state spending for Medicaid should remain the same while 32 percent want to see spending increased. The poll also shows that 59 percent of Ohio voters approve of the Medicaid program in the state as it now exists.

Some Republicans wondered whether McConnell’s decision to delay will ultimately imperil the chances of repealing the 2010 law.

“There is a window to pass this, the window is very narrow and postponing this vote I’m not sure what is achieved or accomplished,” said one Republican, who spoke on the condition that he not be named.

Gov. John Kasich says current health care bill is ‘unacceptable’

Published: Tuesday, June 27, 2017 @ 12:36 PM
Updated: Tuesday, June 27, 2017 @ 12:36 PM

Ohio Gov. John Kasich has urged Sen. Rob Portman not to accept “a few billion” to fight the nation’s opioid epidemic in exchange for drastic cuts to Medicaid, saying that the former would be “like spitting in the ocean.”

RELATED: Kasich calls for bipartisan talks on health care in Congress

Kasich, appearing in D.C. Tuesday for a press conference with Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, said he last spoke to Portman, who may be a key swing vote on the Senate health care vote that could be voted on as early as this week, few weeks back. “He knows what my concerns are,” he said, but cautioned “I don’t cast his vote.”

At least six Republican U.S. senators have expressed concern about the Senate health care bill unveiled last week, with one – Sen. Susan Collins of Maine – expressing concern after the release of a Congressional Budget Office Report last week that found that the Senate bill would cost some 22 million health care over the next decade.

RELATED: John Kasich slams House GOP over health-care bill

Kasich – who was already scheduled to be in town for a meeting with the board of directors of Siemens - has long expressed concern about House and Senate Republicans’ plans to roll back a Medicaid expansion from the 2010 Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. Some 700,000 Ohioans – including many of the state’s drug addicted – received coverage under that Medicaid expansion.

Kasich – who also objected to the House bill that passed in May – said the current bill is “unacceptable” and lacks the resources to cover the mentally ill, addicted and working poor. He supports making mental health and addiction services “essential benefits” that states are required to offer, but is more concerned that the drastic cuts in expenditures will leave people without coverage.

“If they don’t want to improve this bill, I’m not for this bill,” he said.

Husted says he offers new vision for Ohio

Published: Monday, June 26, 2017 @ 7:14 PM

The youngest contender in the Republican race for Ohio governor went straight to the age issue on Monday when asked about 70-year-old Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s decision to run in 2018.

When asked about the newest addition to the race, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted said, “‘New’ would not be the way to describe that.”

Husted, 49, said he has “always been friends” with DeWine and volunteered for his U.S. Senate campaign in the 1990s.

But, said Husted, “I’m excited about the opportunity to provide a new generation of leadership for Ohio so that we can win a more prosperous future.”

Dewine campaign spokesman Dave Luketic responded to Husted’s comments by saying, “I am happy to provide him a volunteer spot in the general election.”

RELATED: Mike DeWine running for governor

Husted, formerly of Kettering, has been an elected official since 2000 when he was elected to the Ohio House of Representatives. DeWine’s first public job was in 1976 when he was elected Greene County prosecutor.

The other Republican contenders are Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, 51, and U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, 58, of Wadsworth.

On the Democratic side are Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, 41, former state representative Connie Pillich, 56, of Cincinnati, state Sen. Joe Schiavoni, 37, of Boardman, and former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton, 53, of Akron.

RELATED: Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley running for Ohio governor in 2018

Husted was in Dayton to talk to the Rotary Club at Sinclair Community College. It was billed as an official visit by the secretary of state, but he spent most of his time talking about his vision for Ohio.

“This was not a political speech about me running for governor,” Husted said afterward. “This was a call to action to educate people in Ohio about what I think the challenges that we face are.”

Top among them is an unprepared workforce and the need to better educate children and workers, he said.

“If we don’t do a better job with this generation of kids….we are not going to be the most prosperous nation 30 years from now,” Husted said.

RELATED: Jon Husted running for Ohio governor

He said people are struggling economically and wages are down so they can’t pay for health care and education. He called for change and innovation in the way children are educated.

“There is evidence that if you do things differently you can have better outcomes and spend less money,” Husted said. “In saying that, I recognize that there are some times you’re going to have to spend more money on things, some times you’re going to spend less money on things. It’s priority setting and a willingness to change the way you do things.”

Ohio has lowered taxes and reformed tort law after businesses said those hampered them in creating jobs, Husted said. Now he says business leaders tell him they are not hiring because the workforce lacks the skills companies need or they have trouble “just finding somebody who can show up five days a week and pass a drug test.”

RELATED: DeWine, Husted each have $2.5 million on hand for 2018 run

Senate passes $132.7B state budget which freezes Medicaid enrollment

Published: Wednesday, June 21, 2017 @ 7:38 PM
Updated: Wednesday, June 21, 2017 @ 8:36 PM

More than $1 billion in federal grant money is available nationwide for communities looking to combat the overdose epidemic as deaths continues to rise in Clark County. CHRIS STEWART/STAFF
Staff Writer

The Republican-dominated Ohio Senate on Wednesday thwarted Democratic efforts to get a Medicaid expansion freeze taken out of the proposed budget and to repeal a tax break for small businesses.

The Senate passed a $132.7 billion, two-year state budget that closes a $1.05 billion annual revenue shortfall by making cuts.

The budget passed, 24-8. The House already passed its version of the budget and voted late Wednesday to reject the Senate version.

Today a conference committee made up of members from both houses will iron out differences between the two. One of the main sticking points will center around how to fund the state’s fight against opioid addiction.

A final vote will occur next week and a balanced 2018-2019 budget must be on Gov. John Kasich’s desk by June 30.

The Senate budget proposes freezing new enrollment in the expanded Medicaid program starting on July 1, 2018. The bill also adds work requirements for Medicaid recipients.

RELATED: Senate looks to end Medicaid expansion enrollment

Democrats on Wednesday tried to get the Medicaid changes taken out of the bill.

“We must do more to protect this life-saving coverage,” said Assistant Minority Charleta Tavares, D-Columbus. “Health care is essential to making sure that someone is ready to learn and ready to earn.”

In urging defeat of the Democrats’ amendment, Sen. Scott Oelslager, R-North Canton, said, “We had long discussions on how to deal with this issue and how to be fair to those who are covered and the taxpayers of Ohio.”

He said people would have a year to sign up before the freeze takes effect.

“The freeze will help us evaluate where the budget is a year from now (and) let us see what’s happening in Washington with this program,” said Oelslager, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee. “Nobody knows what’s happening in Washington, period.”

Currently the federal government pays 90 percent of the cost of the Medicaid expansion but the U.S. House-passed American Health Care Act cuts Medicaid funding. Republican leaders in the U.S. Senate are working on their version of health care reform behind closed doors so it is unknown what their plans are for Medicaid.

The Ohio Department of Medicaid is reviewing the Ohio Senate freeze proposal, said Brittany Warner, spokeswoman.

The state’s Medicaid expansion covered 725,504 people in May, up from 707,762 in May 2016, Warner said.

Monthly enrollment fluctuates but in some months enrollment has increased by 1,000 to 3,000 people, according to data provided by Warner.

Tax cut for small businesses

The Senate budget also includes an amendment limiting the state Controlling Board’s ability to authorize a “significant expenditure” that has not been approved by the legislature.

Kasich sidestepped the legislature in 2013 by using a Controlling Board vote to expand Medicaid under the provisions of the federal Affordable Care Act. The change took effect Jan. 1, 2014.

Kasich declined to comment directly on the Senate’s proposed changes to Medicaid and the Controlling Board’s authority.

RELATED: Medicaid coverage for 715K Ohioans hangs in balance as debate rages

Democrats also failed to get into the state budget an amendment repealing a small business tax exemption.

The tax break at issue is an exemption that allows certain small businesses to avoid taxes on the first $250,000 of earnings. Those businesses also pay a maximum of 3 percent on additional income, rather than the 4.9 percent other businesses pay. Enacted in 2013 and 2015, the exemption covers businesses that organize as partnerships, sole proprietors or limited liability corporations.

RELATED: State may reduce a tax break for small businessesThe non-partisan Ohio Legislative Service Commission has said that Ohio would gain $1.1 billion annually if the tax break were not in place.

The tax break is “irresponsible tax policy,” Sen. Cecil Thomas, D-Cincinnati, said during the Senate budget hearing.

RELATED: Ohio Senate leaders say state facing $1B budget gapHe said not only does the budget proposal ignore the tax break as the chief source of the shortfall, but it also makes cuts even though the state has a $2 billion rainy day fund.

Oelslager said Democrats are calling for a tax increase on businesses, including some owned by middle class people. He said the tax should not be repealed and that he’s heard stories about businesses creating jobs and making capital improvements because of the tax.

“We have lifted the spirits of these people, given them confidence to open the doors every day,” Oelslager said at the hearing.

The Senate on Wednesday tabled a Democratic proposal to repeal the tax break and use the revenue to balance the budget without cuts while spending the remaining additional revenue on schools, local governments, health care, higher education and to fight the opioid crisis.

The Senate also tabled a second Democratic amendment that would have repealed the tax break used the revenue to balance the budget and to increase a variety of tax credits for the elderly, parents and others.

RELATED: Democratic leader says state tax cuts lead to higher local taxesSome Republicans also are reconsidering the tax. State Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering, said it is possible the tax repeal could be revived in the conference committee. There is talk of changing the tax break threshold to $100,000, down from $250,000.

She said the legislature ought to look to see if the tax break is being abused or being used more than intended or expected.

House Majority Floor Leader Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, said too many businesses are getting the tax break but not creating jobs or investing in equipment. And he said the state’s proposed budget is being balanced using “substantial, painful cuts” of about 3 percent for “just about everybody.” He’s said scaling back the tax break would free up revenue to keep from cutting so deeply.

Kasich and Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Medina, both oppose repealing the tax.

RELATED: WINE SALE: Ohio lawmakers may allow 10% off a HALF case