Ohio governor makes Medicaid overhaul a priority

The director of the new Governor's Office of Health Transformation hopes to avoid cuts that would threaten the program's long-term sustainability.

By Doug Trapp — Posted Feb. 3, 2011

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Ohio Gov. John Kasich has created an executive office to reorganize Ohio's Medicaid program by improving its care coordination and preventive care. He also expects the effort to help close the state's fiscal 2012-13 budget deficit of up to $8 billion and guide implementation of parts of the national health reform law.

On Jan. 13, Kasich appointed Greg Moody as director of the new office, the Governor's Office of Health Transformation. Moody had been a consultant with Health Management Associates Inc. since 2004. He also was a staffer on the House Budget Committee when Kasich was its chair in the mid- to late 1990s.

Moody said one of his main tasks is getting the six state offices with responsibility for Medicaid to align their efforts. For example, the health reform law's Medicaid expansion in 2014 will provide coverage to many childless adults. The state needs a better plan to coordinate their physical and mental health needs, he said.

Moody said everything is on the table in the transformation effort with the exception of tax increases, because enough money already exists in the health system. He wants to avoid any cuts in the next budget that would affect the long-term sustainability of Medicaid and the state's health system. "Those are the choices we want to avoid, but we understand the budget is so bad that we have to think those through."

Tim Maglione, Ohio State Medical Assn. senior director for government relations, said he hopes the focus will stay on improving the health system. "Most of these principles are things that physicians embrace." If the transformation effort is successful, it could ease the pressure to cut Medicaid physician fees, he said.

On Jan. 19, Ohio became one of six states to join a 20-state lawsuit to repeal the national health reform law. Moody said a health reform repeal is not a high priority for Kasich but that he felt obligated to join the lawsuit because his supporters want it. Balancing the budget is Kasich's No. 1 priority.

Kasich's executive order also instructs the transformation office to advise the state on implementing a health insurance exchange as called for under the health reform law. Moody said he expects to quicken Ohio's pace in moving long-term-care enrollees from institutional facilities to community-based care. The order directs his team to engage the private sector in all their work.

Moody is joined in the transformation office by new appointees:

  • Ohio Medicaid Director John McCarthy, former Medicaid director for the District of Columbia.
  • Ohio Dept. of Health Director Theodore Wymyslo, MD, who most recently directed a family practice program at Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, Ohio.
  • Ohio Dept. of Aging Director Bonnie Kantor-Burman, ScD, who most recently was executive director of Pioneer Network, an advocate for long-term community care.

Maglione said Kasich has assembled a "pretty good team" for the transformation office that will report directly to the governor. "I think that accountability is going to produce results."

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