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OH-Gov: GOP candidate Mike DeWine would keep Medicaid expansion if elected

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said he would support Medicaid expansion if he is elected governor. (Toya Samo Jordan/Getty Images)

Mike DeWine, the Republican nominee for governor of Ohio, supports keeping the state's Medicaid expansion in place. He made the declaration Wednesday during a news conference accepting the endorsement of the Ohio State Medical Association Political Action Committee.

According to Cleveland.com, it was the first time DeWine has detailed his specific intention to implement a work requirement for Medicaid. He has, more generally, called for reforms to the program in the past.

The future of Medicaid expansion has been one of the primary issues creating distance between DeWine and Gov. John Kasich, who pushed the expansion through in 2013 and has declined to endorse DeWine, although he said he would vote for the Republican candidate.

Who said what?

DeWine's campaign attacked his GOP primary opponent, Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, for supporting Kasich's Medicaid expansion efforts in 2013, calling her a "phony conservative" in an ad.

Taylor, sometime over the next few years, apparently changed her mind, having said later on that she would end Medicaid expansion if she were elected.

DeWine agreed with Taylor that Medicaid expansion was unsustainable, but he did not express any intention to end the program. Wednesday, DeWine emphasized that his announcement was in line with what he's always believed.

"Look, there's no change," DeWine said. "What we have said is, all along, is that it had to be reformed.

Democratic candidate Richard Cordray's campaign attacked DeWine for an alleged "flip-flop" on Medicaid expansion, saying DeWine has always opposed Obamacare.

Indeed, DeWine has, in the past, heavily criticized Obamacare. At the same time, he has touted the benefits of Medicaid expansion, particularly to those struggling with drug addiction.  In summary, he likes the benefits to drug-addicted beneficiaries, but believes the costs are unsustainable, hence his call for work requirements.

Medicaid expansion and opioid addiction

While DeWine favors the help drug-addicted Ohioans get from Medicaid expansion, a recent report by the Inspector General's office may indicate a tie between Medicaid and increased opioid abuse.

According to the report, nearly 5,000 Medicaid recipients (who were not on hospice care or undergoing cancer treatment) received notably large amounts of opioids, and more than 700 recipients were apparently in serious danger of opioid misuse or overdose.

"Medicaid beneficiaries may be especially vulnerable to opioid misuse because they are more likely than nonbeneficiaries to have chronic conditions and comorbidities that require pain relief, especially those who qualify because of a disability," the report read. "In 2016, Medicaid covered nearly 4 in 10 nonelderly adults with opioid addiction."

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