Gov. Ted Strickland visited with some families in Marietta Friday, May 18, during a tour of the state, to hear their health care stories and concerns.
The governor came to Family Health Services on Wayne Street to listen and to share his plan to improve access to health care coverage for more Ohioans, especially children.
“I think there’s a pretty good spirit in Columbus right now in terms of willingness to work together in a bipartisan way, but I think not everyone understands the particular circumstances that many of you and the people who use this clinic face,” Strickland said.
Several local residents who live with some of those challenges were asked to sit with the governor Friday and tell their stories.
Gerald Hasley, 37, of Reno has multiple sclerosis and is on Social Security disability. He said he could really benefit from having Medicaid.
“I fall into a class that cannot receive the medical card,” he said. “Straight out, I have to pay a spend-down (like a deductible).”
Hasley said the cost requirements are too high for his budget, while he is also trying to raise two children.
Dixie Pascoe, 54, of Belpre suffers from lupus and heart disease as well as several other health conditions. When she returned to work after being away for surgery and health problems, she could not find the help she needed to afford health care.
“Since I returned to work, I was told I make too much for regular Medicaid so I was put on transitional Medicaid,” she said. “Last week, I received a letter saying my Medicaid will stop on May 31.”
Pascoe said her medications cost more than $2,500 a month, but she only makes $823 a month.
“I cannot get ahead enough to rebuild my life,” she said.
Strickland said in the long term he would like to see all people in Ohio have coverage but the short-term goal is to at least get the children covered.
Strickland said the state’s children health insurance plan provides coverage to thousands of children but not every one.
“I want our goal in Ohio to be coverage for every child in our state,” he said.
The governor said the existing programs are not far from achieving that goal, but his budget proposal aims to tweak them a bit.
For instance, Strickland wants to raise the eligibility level for the children’s health insurance plan from 200 percent of the federal poverty line to 300 percent.
Families who are above that 300 percent line may not be eligible for Medicaid, but still do not have the money to afford health insurance for their families, usually due to special circumstances. Strickland would like to see them be able to buy into Medicaid.
“We have children in this state who have very special needs and pre-existing conditions,” he said. “And it is especially difficult for a self-employed family to cover their child.”
Strickland said it would not be free care, but it also would not cost the state very much to provide the option. He said over two years, it would cost about $6 million.
Strickland also wants to increase access to Medicaid for working parents. Currently eligibility is for parents who earn up to 90 percent of the poverty line. Strickland wants to raise that to 100 percent.
David Brightbill, executive director for Washington-Morgan Community Action, agreed with Strickland’s plan to get more Ohioans access to affordable care.
“There’s so many people that fall into that niche,” he said. “This would really help a lot. Health insurance should be something that everyone has. Nobody should have to worry.”
The health care proposal:
To increase the eligibility level for children to have access to the state’s children insurance program from 200 percent to 300 percent of the poverty line.
To increase the eligibility level for working parents to have access to Medicaid from 90 percent to 100 percent of the poverty line.
To allow families who are above the eligibility level to buy into Medicaid.
Washington-Morgan Community Action Washington and Morgan Counties, Ohio
218 Putnam Street, Marietta, OH 45750 (740) 373-3745
50 W. Third Street, PO Box 398, Malta, OH 43758 (740) 962-3827