CINCINNATI (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling upholding the heart of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul aimed at uninsured people also ensures that Republicans will highlight their continued opposition for the fall campaign in the pivotal state of Ohio.
The state’s former Democratic governor said Thursday that the Republican opponents risk alienating Americans who will benefit from the changes. Ted Strickland, an Obama campaign co-chairman, also called on his Republican successor’s administration to get moving on a state health care exchange.
Gov. John Kasich and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor said they were analyzing a court ruling they found disappointing and were concerned about dramatically higher costs it could mean in the state for Medicaid and other coverage.
Taylor said she and Kasich think the “best solution for Ohio” is for Obama to be replaced by Republican Mitt Romney and the health care law be repealed.
“This matter will now be fought out in the political arena, again,” said Attorney General Mike DeWine, also a Republican. “It makes this issue the pre-eminent issue of the presidential campaign. … People will have the ability this fall to do what the United States Supreme Court would not do today, and that is to repeal Obamacare.”
The race between Obama and Romney is expected to be close in Ohio, a swing state likely to be crucial to Romney’s chances of winning the general election. Republican Sen. Rob Portman said that Ohio voters already have expressed their opposition to the law and that health care is “one of the issues that will help decide the election in Ohio, and therefore around the country.”
Ohioans voted heavily against the overhaul’s mandated coverage in a largely symbolic referendum last year, and statewide polls this year continue to indicate most Ohioans are opposed to the health care law.
“It gives Romney a target if Ohioans continue to not like the health care law,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
Brown said the decision was a boost to Obama’s re-election campaign because it allowed his signature legislation to stand. He said some Ohioans might now think the law is acceptable since it has been to the Supreme Court, but it’s too soon to tell.
“Over the next four months, the question is can Romney essentially make lemonade out of lemons,” Brown said in an interview. “And that’s really the unknown question.”
Former Gov. Strickland said Republicans are focusing on opposing Obama instead of the issues of 30 million uninsured Americans — some 1.5 million in Ohio — and sick people with pre-existing conditions.
“These people puzzle me,” Strickland told The Associated Press. “They keep talking about repealing and replacing, but they’re not talking much about the replacing part. … They have no answers.”
DeWine said the state will continue to be part of a lawsuit disputing the health care law on the grounds it compels people to violate their religious principles, and U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-West Chester, pledged to work for its repeal.
Taylor, who serves as state insurance director, has frequently criticized the overhaul, while saying the state needed more information for the federal government on the exchange plans.
“I think we find ourselves well behind most other states,” Strickland said. “So she needs to stop talking and go to work and pull together the kind of efforts that’s going to be necessary to get these exchanges up and running.”
Taylor said Ohio’s leadership doesn’t see an advantage to a state-run exchange program, nor where needed funding for exchange costs and for additional coverage — such as $369 million more in state matching funds for Medicaid in 2014 — will come from.
“We are concerned that this will cripple the recovery in Ohio,” Taylor told reporters.
She also said higher state costs could lead to cuts in state Medicaid services. She said the state still is studying other implications of the ruling.
“Everything is on the table,” she said.
State Rep. Nickie Antonio, D-Lakewood, said she would continuing pushing on the state exchange in the Republican-controlled Legislature. She sponsored a bill to provide coverage options for individuals and include an exchange for individual coverage and a Small Business Health Options Program for small business owners to provide coverage for their employees.
“I have met with many stakeholders from Ohio who know that setting up a state exchange … will bolster a competitive market place where all Ohioans will have access to affordable health care coverage,” Antonio said.
Meanwhile, the nonprofit Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati said its surveys have indicated most Ohioans don’t understand how the health care changes will affect them personally, and it urged people to seek information on sections of the law that already have taken effect and what will happen in the future.
Katie Rosenbluth, 36, of Cincinnati, said she was taking a wait-and-see attitude about the law’s changes, while she’s hoping to land a job that provides her with insurance.
“I’m looking for a job, and I don’t have health insurance right now,” she said. “I can’t afford it.”
Gary Boggs, 48, who has a vending cart in downtown Cincinnati, said he doesn’t think it’s right to make people buy insurance. “I can’t help it if I can’t afford it,” he said.
Nicole Lewis, 33, of Batavia, approves of more insurance coverage for more people, as she said other countries offer.
By DAN SEWELL and JULIE CARR SMYTH