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This Is How John Kasich Explains His Decision To Expand Medicaid Under Obamacare

"I've been, you know, criticized for this decision. Do you think it bothers me? It doesn't. And we've helped a lot of people. And my folks have probably saved some lives in the process. And so I think it was the right decision."

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Ohio Gov. John Kasich has faced criticism from fellow Republicans for his decision to accept federal funds to expand his state's Medicaid program under Obamacare.

At a GOP luncheon in Fulton County, Georgia, on May 26, Kasich explained his decision, saying it was sustainable in his state and that it helped Ohio's poor.

"It is absolutely sustainable in my state," Kasich said. "And frankly, what I really want is--I really want the federal government to block grant that program back to me. And let me operate my program for the poor in Ohio. I shouldn't have to come on bended knees."

"And so I think a lot of these programs ought to be sent back. We can take fewer dollars in many cases if they just get rid of the strings."

He noted that the Medicaid expansion has "helped a lot of people."

"My choice in that decision was to ignore some of the most vulnerable people in our population. I've been, you know, criticized for this decision. Do you think it bothers me? It doesn't. And we've helped a lot of people. And my folks have probably saved some lives in the process. And so I think it was the right decision," Kasich said.

"And everybody's got to decide. That's why we have states. Everybody has to decide what works best for them and whatever they decided here is great. And, in our state, we're pleased that we've been able to do this."

Kasich said that the $14 billion Ohio accepted from the federal government was just money Ohioans had sent to Washington in the first place and that it would save the state money in other ways.

"Here's how it works: again, we're bringing back $14 billion--the first, I don't know, two, three, four years--the federal government just sends our money back, which is our money."

Kasich built upon comments he made earlier at the lunch, asserting that treating the mentally ill would lower state expenditures on prison inmates and emergency rooms.

"Our prison population--think about this," he suggested to his audience, "If I don't treat the mentally ill, they come out, and guess where they end up? Back in. At $22,500 a year. Now, if I don't provide some kind of health care for those who are the working poor where do we see them? Where do we see them? Emergency rooms. Are they healthier or sicker?"

"Sicker," the audience called back.

"Thank you," Kasich said. "So we are now seeing emergency room visits decline."

Here's the audio of Kasich's comment on Medicaid:

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And here's the full audio of Kasich's appearance at the GOP lunch:

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Christopher Massie is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Christopher Massie at Christopher.Massie@buzzfeed.com.

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