House Democrats Pass Unbalanced, Unsustainable Health Care Budget

As ranking member of the House Healthcare Access and Affordability
Committee, as well as a member of the Finance and Appropriations Human
Services Subcommittee, I am invested in issues affecting all aspects of
health services for Ohioans. With the recent passage of the state
operating budget from the Ohio House of Representatives, the hours of
testimony and deliberation in which I have played an active role have
given me hope as well as deep concerns. I am happy that my colleagues in
the Ohio House value our citizens' access to health care and will go to
great lengths to preserve the quality of life here in our great state.
However, during these difficult times fiscal responsibility is more
important than ever, and my colleagues across the aisle have not
demonstrated a commitment to responsible spending.

The budget bill increases government spending by more than $1 billion
over the next two years and includes over $4 billion in one-time funds.
Furthermore, the plan completely drains the state's rainy day fund that
House Republicans have carefully created through years of smart
budgeting.

The House-passed version of the budget displays heavy reliance on
federal stimulus dollars to help fund Medicaid programs. The bill allows
for the continued expansion of Ohio's Medicaid expenditures, which is 40
percent higher than the national average, without any cost-efficiency
measures. Additionally, the bill imposes $1 billion in fee increases on
Ohioans. Many of the increases will be imposed on hospitals and nursing
homes to fund Medicaid programs. For instance, the bill raises the
franchise fee for nursing homes by 76 percent to generate $285 million
over the next two years. Increased hospital fees have also been
implemented to help fund Medicaid and to draw down the maximum amount of
federal Medicaid dollars.

To address the issue of bloated government programs, I proposed an
amendment to the budget before my colleagues on the House floor. My
amendment aimed to fix inefficiencies within the Medicaid system and to
examine each funding item to determine whether all these items are
working effectively. I had hoped that this amendment would allocate
money into areas of Medicaid that need the most help to better serve
Ohioans, as well as halt the funding of ineffective areas and explore
alternative routes. Unfortunately, the House Democrats refused to even
vote on my amendment and other Republican amendments that had the
potential to save the taxpayers billions of dollars. The House Democrats
have passed an unsustainable budget with a Medicaid budget that is
unbalanced, inept and sure to raise insurance rates and Medicaid costs
for all Ohioans.

As a mother and a business owner, I recognize the importance of
efficiency and cost-effectiveness when it comes to running both my
household and my company. It is my expectation that Ohio's government
run the same way, identifying problem areas and either fixing them or
eliminating them. Our current economy demands a new approach to
government, one that forces each and every legislator to examine our
state's policies and fix weak points.

In 1976, Medicaid used 3 percent of our state budget. Today, Ohio's
Medicaid consumes approximately 40 percent of the budget. With such
exorbitant growth in this single sector, it is time for lawmakers to
bring Ohio back to fiscal responsibility. It is time to once again live
within our means while still providing the essential services that our
constituents expect from capable leadership. As the budget receives
hearings in the Senate, I will continue to voice my concerns and call
for reform on behalf of all Ohioans.

If you have any questions or concerns, I would love to hear from you.
Please feel free to contact my office at (614) 466-1731 or write to me
at Representative Barbara Sears, 77 S. High Street, 10th Floor,
Columbus, Ohio 43215. You may also email me at
District46@ohr.state.oh.us.

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