COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Supporters of extending Medicaid in Ohio have abandoned an effort that could have put the issue before the swing state's voters, because they say two actions by state officials have made the expansion a reality.
Two key players with the Healthy Ohioans Work coalition said Monday they have withdrawn a petition that was at the heart of their effort. Jon Allison and Sean McGlone filed the paperwork with Ohio's secretary of state Dec. 4.
The group of health advocates, labor groups and others launched their petition effort in September, after state lawmakers balked at the idea of expanding Medicaid, the federal-state program for the poor and disabled.
The coalition was collecting signatures to force the Legislature to act on Medicaid expansion. Under their petition, if lawmakers passed, amended or took no action the proposal, then they could have sought to get the issue on 2014 ballots.
The move to drop the petition comes after the state's Medicaid department acted to extend Medicaid coverage and a legislative board voted in October to approve federal funds to cover the roughly 366,000 newly eligible Medicaid enrollees beginning in January.
Two anti-abortion groups and six Republican lawmakers have sued to overturn the funding decision by the state Controlling Board. The Ohio Supreme Court has yet to rule in the case.
Both Allison and McGlone acknowledged the legal challenge in a statement, saying they "are hopeful that the Court will confirm that the Controlling Board's action was lawful and proper."
The board's approval only allows the state to spend the federal money on the newly eligible Medicaid group through mid-2015, the end of the current state budget. Then, additional legislative action would be needed to make sure future federal funds continue to cover the expanded population.
The Service Employees International Union, District 1199, had been among the petitioners in the effort. The head of the labor organization said in a written statement that it was a "dangerous gamble" to withdraw the petition before a decision by the state's high court.
"The actions of the Ohio Controlling Board and Department of Medicaid were good first steps toward Medicaid Expansion, however, withdrawing at this time not only places the incomplete solution of temporary expansion at risk pending a ruling of the Ohio Supreme Court but now also takes away the ability for voters to take this issue to the ballot in 2014," said Becky Williams, president of the Service Employees International Union, District 1199.