GOP governor: Medicaid expansion is a conservative ideal

Ohio GOP Gov. John Kasich is defending his decision to expand Medicaid in the state, saying the move is a logical reflection of conservative values.

"I think it's entirely consistent with conservative and Republican philosophy, and I'm really pleased we're doing it," Kasich, who's often mentioned as a possible 2016 presidential contender, said in an interview on the "Fox News Sunday" program.

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Kasich's assessment runs starkly counter to that coming from many conservatives – including many members of Ohio's Republican legislature – who characterize ObamaCare's broad Medicaid expansion as a case of big-government overreach that will add to deficits and discourage work on the part of beneficiaries. Many Republican governors have simply declined to adopt the expansion.

Kasich rejected their arguments this weekend. Adopting a Democratic line, he emphasized that the expansion of the low-income health insurance program will bring billions of dollars to Ohio while benefiting some of the state's most vulnerable people.

"I have a chance to bring back $14 billion … back to Ohio to do what? To strengthen our local communities as they treat the most significant problem of drug addiction and the problem of mental illness," he said. "We must help people who live in the shadows. The people who have drug addictions, we have to get them rehabbed. The people who have mental illness. Those two groups of people should not be sitting in our jails and our prisons. That's unconscionable in our state."

Kasich also pushed back against the notion that his adoption of the Medicaid expansion defied the wishes of Ohio's Republican legislature.

"Had there been a vote, I think it would have passed," he said.

Kasich had rejected another central provision of ObamaCare's coverage expansion, refusing to create a state-based insurance exchange. But the Medicaid expansion was a different animal, he suggested, because it will help those most in need.

"It's a two-prong strategy: Continue to grow the state, … and help to lift people out of the ditch where they are, bring them into the mainstream and give them an opportunity to realize their God-given purpose," he said. "Because there are many people in Ohio now whose lives, frankly, will be in a position of being able to move forward."