COLUMBUS- On Oct. 21, Ohio's Controlling Board approved the appropriation of federal funds to extend Medicaid benefits to low-income Ohioans earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.This means that 275,000 low-income Ohioans will now be eligible for health care.

The Ohio Department of Medicaid placed the request before Ohio's seven-member spending oversight panel-four Republicans, two Democrats and one board president representing the governor-bypassing a vote of the entire Ohio House and Senate on the issue. four Republicans, two Democrats, and one board president representing the governor

The request placed before the Contolling Board also noted the Social Security Act, section 1905(y), 42 USC 1396d(y), provides 100 percent federal funding for the newly eligible group in the state fiscal year 2014 and 2015 biennium. If this federal medical assistance percentage is lowered, state funds will not be used to supplant federal funds.

"Expanding Medicaid will help the most vulnerable get the medical care they need," says Jodi Warnecke, Executive Director at Putnam County Council on Aging. "It will also help seniors get access to quality and preventative care so they can be healthier, more productive and have a better quality of life."

Warnecke notes that improved health care will allow Putnam County senior citizens to remain independent in their own homes and communities, versus a placement in a nursing facility. She believes that Medicaid expansion will also benefit people age 45 to 64 by providing access to care for those who have lost insurance coverage along with their jobs or individuals who work in low wage occupations with no insurance benefits.

Stephanie Clark, Executive Director for The Meadows of Kalida, explained that the facility for which she serves as an administrator does accept Medicaid waivers for assisted living, and that the Kalida building will benefit from the approved Medicaid expansion in Ohio.

"Each building has its own needs," says Clark. "I can't speak for other buildings, but we have to be very choosy as far as what we spend money on. For instance, customized wheelchairs can run upwards of $5,000 for one. When you've got two or three, and the building has to absorb the cost, that takes away from the opportunity to give employees raises and other things for the residents. Now we can take that money that we might have had to set aside for the customized wheelchairs, just trying to plan ahead. We can put that money back into the campus which is going to benefit the staff and the residents."

Another Medicaid-related item from the Oct. 21 agenda was requested by Attorney General Mike DeWine's office and approved by the Ohio Controlling Board. This line item consists of federal funds distributed as a formula grant by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and provides 75 percent matching funds to control provider fraud in statewide Medicaid programs. These funds support the Office of the Attorney General's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, which conducts investigations and prosecutions of health care providers who abuse the state's plan for Medicaid and enforces Ohio's Patient Abuse and Neglect Law.