Our Views: John Kasich, GOP leader on Medicaid _lowres

Associated Press file photo by JAMES NORD -- Ohio Gov. John Kasich

The leader among Republican governors favoring Medicaid expansion is John Kasich, of Ohio, and he’s not backing down on the need to provide insurance for the working poor.

Kasich defended the policy in a meeting with Republican legislators in Montana, where the GOP-led bodies had opposed expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

The mini-debate over Medicaid came, according to the Great Falls Tribune, when a lawmaker criticized Kasich as hypocritical for backing Medicaid expansion but also calling for a balanced federal budget — the reason for his trip to the Rockies. Kasich shot right back that getting Ohio taxpayers’ money back from the federal government is a good idea.

“I gotta tell you, turning down your money back to Montana on an ideological basis, when people can lose their lives because they get no help, doesn’t make a lot of sense to me,” Kasich said.

The governor cited Matthew 25, Christ’s admonitions to Christians about their obligations to the poor.

We commend that chapter to the reading of Gov. Bobby Jindal.

In Montana, about 70,000 families could get Medicaid coverage if the expansion is approved by the Legislature. In Louisiana, more than triple that number could be affected.

“I’m a believer that it is in the conservative tradition to make sure we help people get on their feet so they then are not dependent,” Kasich said, according to the newspaper’s account. “In my state, it’s working,” he continued. “People are healthier, they’re getting their lives back, they’re getting work, and that’s the reason I’m doing it.”

Jindal recently told Fox News that advocates for Medicaid expansion mischaracterize it as free coverage. We think that is bogus. It is a state-federal program, and if the bulk of the money is to come from federal taxpayers, the states eventually will have to pay 10 percent of the cost out of their direct revenues.

It’s not free money. It’s just lifesaving money.

“There’s no money in Washington, it’s my money,” Kasich said in Montana. “I brought my money back to Ohio. And what did we do with it? We treat the mentally ill, we treat the drug-addicted, and we help the working poor stop going to emergency rooms and forcing me to pay for their medical bills because they go there sicker.”

If Kasich is not a good enough example for Jindal, then we refer him to President Ronald Reagan, who in 1986 supported adding poor children and pregnant women to Medicaid.

The governor of Ohio rejected “strict ideology” on this issue. We urge the governor of Louisiana to be as pragmatic.