COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio advocates of the federal health care law targeted by President-elect Donald Trump and congressional Republicans said Wednesday that repeal would jeopardize insurance coverage for as many as 1 million Ohioans by 2019 and hurt families and businesses.
Their warnings came as the state's Democratic U.S. senator and Republican governor expressed their own concerns at separate events about the impact of turning back the Affordable Care Act without a superior replacement.
Gov. John Kasich specifically supports the Medicaid expansion allowed under the act, while not embracing the entire law. Sen. Sherrod Brown expressed concern that repeal would harm efforts to fight Ohio's opioid crisis.
Advocates were led by Policy Matters Ohio, a liberal think tank that has produced an analysis showing that repeal would mean $3.5 million fewer federal funds for Ohio's budget, $535 million less to Ohioans' household budgets and $15 billion in increased costs to hospitals for indigent care by 2019.
Eric Brown, pastor of Woodland Christian Church in Columbus, said at a news conference that many of his parishioners "thank God" for the health care law. He said repealing it without replacing it with something better would be "cruel and unusual punishment."
"If Congress succeeds in repealing the ACA, Congress will make itself one huge death panel. Repealing the ACA means that Congress will have decided who lives and who dies," he said. "I would like this nation not to return to the days when race horses and pedigreed dogs get better health care than millions of American citizens."
At a gathering of behavioral and mental health care professionals, Kasich said he is headed to Washington, D.C., this month to discuss his thoughts on the issue. He is scheduled to take part in a health care round table organized by the Senate Finance Committee.
Kasich noted 700,000 additional people who were previously uninsured have been able to get care since Ohio expanded Medicaid.
"What I tell people is, 'OK, you want to change the system — I'm for doing that. There's many different ways in which we can actually lower some of the costs of health care,'" he told the crowded ballroom. "'But you have to tell me what you're going to do about it because I can't just tell 700,000 people, you can't get help.'"
Brown highlighted a new study by Harvard Medical School and New York University, which found more than 220,000 Ohioans may be unable to afford care for mental illness and substance-related disorders if the health care law is repealed.
"Repeal would disrupt hundreds of thousands of Ohioans' coverage as they're fighting for their lives," Brown said.