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Building for the Future: Modernizing Medicaid to Continue Ohio's Healthcare Transformation

On Friday, March 3rd, we went to the City Club for a program titled "Building for the Future: Modernizing Medicaid to Continue Ohio's Healthcare Transformation" in which the speaker was Ms. Barbara R. Sears who oversees the Ohio Dept. of Medicaid, Ohio's first cabinet-level state Medicaid agency which as the program notes stated "has become a cornerstone of the Governor's Office of Health Transformation which Governor John R. Kasich created in 2011." 

The program notes also indicated that "prior to joining the Governor's Office of Health Transformation, Sears represented the 47th House District in the Ohio House of Representatives. While a legislator, she served as the Majority Floor Leader, Chair of the House Insurance Committee and Chair of the Joint Medicaid Oversight Committee. Most of her legislative and policy work focused on the state's health and human services, including Medicaid and unemployment reforms." During her presentation, we learned that at one time in her life she sold insurance which gives her multi-faceted perspective.

In the course of her presentation, Ms. Sears talked about the positive reforms that have been recently enacted which have centered around the principle of paying for the quality of the care instead of the volume of it. It looks like the efforts have largely been successful from all aspects because today in Ohio medicaid is accessible to its citizenry, delivers a high level of quality care, and is very cost-efficient. She quoted an extensive study that showed that medicaid expansion has been very good for Ohio and now other states seek to copy us. Moreover, other areas of health care such as mental/behavioral health are starting to be addressed.

During the Q and A, Dr. Akram Boutros, President and CEO of The MetroHealth System, stood up and said that he wasn't going to ask a question but was going to applaud what is being done regarding the integration of mental and behavior health because in order to successfully treat a patient, both must be addressed at the same time. We believe that this compliment from Dr. Boutros carries a lot of weight because when we first arrived at the City Club we had spoken to Ms. Elizabeth Heller Johnson, Senior Vice President of External Affairs at The MetroHealth System, who told us that 49% of the population that is treated by MetroHealth is on Medicaid. 

To be sure, everyone at the City Club was worried about what the Trump administration is going to do regarding healthcare in the United States. Ms. Sears seemed to be concerned about this as much as anyone, if not more so, and firmly stated that both she and Governor Kasich very firmly believed that if the Affordable Care Act (ACA) were to be repealed it must be simultaneously replaced by another, hopefully better, system so that those covered by the ACA will not suffer. She talked about how both the governor and herself have traveled to Washington, DC several times to meet with federal policy makers.

Prior to her speech, we spoke briefly with Ms. Sears and asked her about coverage for foreign-born people. Ms. Sears replied that in certain instances, foreign-born people who were properly documented were eligible for benefits.

In addition to Ms. Sears and Ms. Johnson, we also met several fine, dedicated people at the City Club on this day including Ms. Lissette Rivera, Account Director at "Advance_360" who consistently advocates on behalf of immigrants and refugees and Ms. Rita Horwitz, Chief Operating Officer with "Better Health Partnership", whose organization arranged for Dr. Benjamin D. Sommers to address the City Club on healthcare issues in the first week of February of 2017. 

We had an especially good conversation with Ms. Elaine Elliis, Centering Coordinator, and Ms. Edna Clayton, Community Health Coordinator, for the "Summa Health Equity Center" in Akron. They told us that that medicaid is of vital importance to their area because the infant mortality rate is so high there. In addition, we learned about that they often work with Nepalese refugees living in the North Hills area and sometimes provide or direct them to classes concerning good health practices here in the United States.

During his welcoming remarks, Mr. Dan Moulthrop, the City Club CEO, mentioned that he had recently been in contact with Mr. Richard Rothstein, Research Associate with the Economic Policy Institute who spoke at the City Club on racial equality in February, 2015. Mr. Moulthrop shared that Mr. Rothstein had told him that he speaks all the time at various venues but he looks back fondly at his time at the City Club because of the high calibre of the questions that he was asked and the diversity of the attendees.

By:

Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC