Last updated: November 26. 2013 11:24AM - 258 Views
By DEBRA GASKILL Special Correspondent

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BEAVERCREEK — For Tonja Resch-Jillson, the permanent expansion of Medicaid in Ohio is a matter of life and death—and dollars and cents.

Resch-Jillson, of Yellow Springs, is a diabetic who was laid off last year. She got by with COBRA health benefits after her lay-off, but after that expired, she still could not afford health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

But she knows that her condition needs to be managed to prolong her life — and managing her diabetes through the permanent expansion of Medicaid would cost only $4,000 a year.

Without insurance and the ability to manage her diabetes effectively, it could potentially cost $16,000 a year if not managed properly.

According to the American Diabetes Association, failure to manage the disease properly could lead to heart disease, strokes, liver and kidney damage, vision loss and a susceptibility to infections and poor healing.

“I don’t want to be that burden,” she said.

Resch-Jillson was one of about 15 members of the group Working American, which met with Rep. Rick Perales, (R-73), Monday at Beavercreek City Hall to tell their stories and to encourage Perales to support Medicaid’s permanent expansion in Ohio.

Making Medicaid permanent in Ohio will save money and lives, as well as create jobs, such as caseworkers, nurses and other medical professions, according to the group.

The Ohio governing board approved the expansion of Medicaid in Ohio on Oct. 21 Perales said, but that expansion will only last through the current budget cycle.

“We’ve got to get the system in place, get it up and working,” Perales told reporters in an interview prior to meeting with the group. “It’s the law of the land… We’ve got to take care of people who can’t take care of themselves.”

Low-income Ohioans who are newly eligible for Medicaid under an expansion of the program can sign up for health coverage beginning Dec. 9.

Newly-eligible adults are asked to sign up at www.benefits.Ohio.gov, Perales said or visit their local Job and Family Services office to enroll in person.

Gov. John Kasich’s administration moved forward recently to extend the federal-state health program for the poor and disabled. But it was unclear until now when people could enroll.

Coverage begins Jan. 1.

The federal health-care law expanded Medicaid to those with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level — $15,856 for an individual or $32,499 for a family of four. Its main beneficiaries are expected to be low-income adults with no children living at home.

The Supreme Court gave states the right to opt out of the expansion, which is fully financed by Washington for the first three years, gradually phasing down to a 90 percent federal share.

Ohio is one of 25 states and the District of Columbia that have decided to go with the expanded Medicaid program.

According to Working America spokesperson Emma Godsey, if the program is not made permanent, more than 370,000 Ohioans without dependent children, would have no access to permanent health care as a result. Working America, a community affiliate of the AFL_CIO, organized the meeting.

For Shonda Sneed, a 42-year resident of Yellow Springs, the expansion came too late for members of her family. Sneed lost a brother to colon cancer because he had no health insurance.

“If we had Medicaid expansion, we could have saved his life,” she said.

A niece, who is also without health insurance, has also been diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

“We don’t want a hand-out, we just want a chance,” Sneed said.

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