Docs back DeWine after he commits to keep Medicaid expansion

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) Ohio's largest organization of doctors backed Attorney General Mike DeWine for governor Wednesday after the Republican committed to supporting - but improving - Medicaid expansion.

The Ohio State Medical Association PAC cited DeWine's stance favoring expansion of the government health insurance program in its endorsement. It also said it favors DeWine for his commitment to increasing treatment options for opioid addiction, lowering prescription drug costs and reducing physicians' administrative burdens.

DeWine said, as governor, his expansion would include a "reasonable work requirement," wellness incentives and efforts to drive down drug prices.

Marvin Rorick, who chairs the doctors' PAC, said, "Mike DeWine is as dedicated to public service as a doctor is dedicated to their patients."

Democrats immediately leaped on DeWine for reversing on the Medicaid expansion. They cited his repeated statements failing to support its continuation and ads DeWine aired during the primary campaign attacking the program.

"DeWine spent more than a million dollars on television ads attacking John Kasich's Medicaid expansion - which provides access to quality, affordable health care coverage to hundreds of thousands of Ohioans," said Robyn Patterson, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Democratic Party. "Ohioans know better than to trust Mike DeWine when it comes to saving on health care and putting money back in the pocket of the middle class."

DeWine won the GOP primary over Republican Gov. John Kasich's lieutenant governor, Mary Taylor.

Kasich, one of the expansion's earliest and strongest advocates, said after DeWine's victory that he was waiting to endorse DeWine until he got assurances he would continue the program.

DeWine's campaign responded that it would welcome Kasich's endorsement, but he also said the government insurance program covering 700,000 low-income Ohioans was not financially sustainable.

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Richard Cordray, an expansion supporter, seized on the opportunity at the time to try to attract Kasich supporters.

On Wednesday, Cordray said DeWine had "spent the last seven years attacking Medicaid expansion."

"His words today are more empty political promises from someone who has failed to protect Ohioans with pre-existing medical conditions, who has repeatedly attacked the Affordable Care Act, and who has put big drug companies ahead of the middle class," Cordray said.