Columbus -- A group hoping to force state lawmakers to expand Medicaid eligibility has been given the green light to begin collecting signatures to place the issue before the legislature.
The Ohio Ballot Board's certification of Healthy Ohioans Work's proposed law came less than a week after Attorney General Mike DeWine's OK and sets the stage for a petition drive that backers hope to complete before the end of the year.
Healthy Ohioans Work plans to collect 115,000-plus petition signatures, via a combination of volunteer and paid circulators. If they're successful, their proposed initiated statute would be placed before the general assembly, with lawmakers given about four months to act.
The initiated statute has a one-sentence summary, calling for the expansion of Ohio's Medicaid program "to the fullest extent permitted by the [federal] Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act."
Lawmakers could pass it as-is, adopt a different version or ignore the issue. In the case of the latter two, petitioners could gather another 115,000-plus signatures to place the proposed law before voters in 2014.
Matt Koppitch, legislative liaison for the Service Employees International Union District 1199, who spoke on behalf of the campaign, called the effort "Plan B," with hopes that lawmakers will act before the end of the year.
"We're still going to be engaging the legislature as well," he said.
The Ballot Board vote to certify was unanimous.