By Jack Torry

The Columbus Dispatch

WASHINGTON – Calling it a "very, very bad idea," Gov. John Kasich sharply criticized a House Republican plan to phase out federal health spending for a program Kasich has used to provide health coverage for 700,000 low-income people in Ohio.

Appearing on CNN’s State of the Union Sunday as he attended an international security conference in Munich, Kasich said "we cannot turn our back on the most vulnerable," saying he was "not going to sit silent and just allow them to rip that out."

Kasich was referring to an expansion of Medicaid, a joint federal and state program dating to 1965 that provides health care for the poor. The 2010 health law, known as Obamacare, funneled hundreds of millions of additional Medicaid dollars to the states to expand coverage to millions of low-income people across the country.

Last week, House Republicans circulated a memo on scrapping Obamacare that would include phasing out the additional federal dollars Kasich used to expand Medicaid coverage in Ohio.

"There are 700,000 Ohioans who now get care who didn't have it before, a third of whom have either mental illness and need to be treated or drug addiction," Kasich said.

"And to turn our back on them makes no sense," Kasich said. "Now, I believe there is an ability to reform, to repeal and replace Obamacare which also includes a reform of Medicaid that will make the program more affordable."

In a sign that Kasich is continuing an independent approach, Kasich not only assailed House Republicans, but also broke with President Donald Trump on his tweet that the news media is the "enemy of the American people."

"While I don't always agree with the reporting of the press, they are vital," said Kasich who at times has had a turbulent relationship with the Ohio news media.

In another dig against Trump, Kasich said a joint House-Senate intelligence committee "investigation ought to get to the bottom of" charges that Russian officials orchestrated an effort to hack Democratic National Committee e-mails during last year’s campaign between Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

"Were they trying to influence our election?" Kasich asked. "Many European countries are worried about Russia's hacking their elections, disrupting their elections. So, I believe that the House and Senate can carry this out. And I think that it has to be done in a bipartisan and thorough way."

Kasich also urged Trump to reassure America’s nervous European allies that he is committed to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, saying they need to directly hear from Trump that "we all stand together in the Western Alliance."


Kasich said while Vice President Mike Pence and Defense Secretary James Mattis in Munich and Brussels this week say the administration stands with NATO, many allies point to Trump’s past description of the alliance as "obsolete."

"The president's people have all said it, but, frankly, he needs to be heard in a more . . . clear way," Kasich said. "Because, despite all these people being here, I have been meeting with all these folks from all over the world. They say: ‘We're just not sure.’"