Bi-partisanship has broken out at the Statehouse

“Ohio House Passes State Operating Budget with Bi-Partisan Support”

This week brought the passage of the state’s operating budget out of the Ohio House with broad bi-partisan support. Efforts to work across the aisle and bring a new level of bi-partisanship to the House of Representatives seems to be continuing and was on full display this week with a number of Democrat policy proposals finding their way into House Bill 166. The bill received a vote of 85-9 on the House Floor, was unanimous in Finance Committee as well and was praised by members from both sides of the isle.

House Bill 166 makes some significant changes and investments in Ohio including over $500 million new dollars into Education through the proposed Success and Wellness program by Governor DeWine. The House added additional resources targeted to high poverty school districts to help Ohio’s children have access to a variety of supports ranging from mental health counseling to physical wellness and other educational initiatives. 

Education Funding continues to be an area of the state budget where there is no resolution. A coalition representing traditional K-12 schools in the state proposed a new way of funding schools along with Representatives Bob Cupp and John Patterson. After significant debate the proposed changes were not taken up in House Bill 166 during the time in the Ohio House and it is unclear what other changes to how Ohio’s schools are funded will happen during the Ohio Senate’s deliberations. 

House Bill 166 does propose a number of school funding studies, which seems to set the stage for possible stand-alone legislation on the issue moving forward.

This budget like many in the past brings with it changes in healthcare policy. One of the more significant changes included in the House passed version of the budget deal with the way the state interacts with Pharmacy Benefit Managers or PBMs. Proposed changes to House Bill 166 requires the state to contact for a single PBM to provide pharmacy benefits throughout state programs dealing with prescriptions. Additionally, the state’s manage care plans or MCO’s who provide Medicaid benefits to Ohioans who qualify, are required to use the single PBM contracted with the state as well.  

This proposal is a big departure from the current practice, which allows each state agency and the MCO’s to contact individually with a PBM to provide pharmacy benefits. 

The PBM proposal comes after more than a year’s worth of debate in the legislature and after a Columbus Dispatch series, which has highlighted the industry. This issue is certain to continue being a topic of debate as the budget moves through the Senate. 

One item pulled late from the budget in the House dealt with requiring the Ohio Department of Medicaid to seek a waiver from the federal government to allow the state to require individuals who receive Medicaid benefits to pay premiums and co-payments as well as maintain health savings accounts. The program referred to as “Healthy Ohio” has been controversial in past budgets, including leading to a Governor’s veto in the fiscal year 18’-19’ budget. At this time, it looks like the proposal will be introduced as a stand-along piece of legislation, so expect a lot of debate as the General Assembly moves forward on this topic. 

When Governor DeWine introduced his budget proposal, he stressed the importance of making targeted investments to continue growing the state and helping those most vulnerable Ohioans. Now that the House has had their opportunity to ink their mark on the budget it seems the House agrees with the Governor. 

Now the budget bill moves over to the Ohio Senate and there likely will be significant changes to areas dealing with tax, healthcare, and education policy setting up a late June conference committee negotiation. 

Stay tuned to The Montrose Group to keep updated as the bill moves towards it June 30 deadline for passage.