COLUMBUS, Ohio (WKBN) – For 21 years, Senior Master Sergeant Joseph Gibson has served our country in the Air Force.
Born in Dayton, Ohio, Gibson joined the military after high school and has bounced around from post to post all over the country and the world.
In his words, he has supported our most elite special operations warfighters — those who support the nation’s most lethal, strategic weapons system — and those providing intelligence support to our nation’s most senior leaders.
In July, Gibson was sent back to Ohio for a duty assignment at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, where he is the superintendent of the Air and Cyberspace Intelligence Group at the National Air and Space Intelligence Center.
When he received word in Virginia that he would be returning home to Ohio, it should have been the most exciting news and it may have been for a moment. Then he had to face a difficult question.
You see, Gibson is not a bachelor — he has a wife and three kids, one of which is Zachary, who will be 13 in a few months.
Zachary was diagnosed with Spastic Quadriplegia Cerebral Palsy at 8 weeks old and is 100% dependent on his parents for care.
Zachary gets a large portion of the care he needs paid for through the military’s health insurance programs, but those programs don’t cover everything.
Back in Virginia, Zachary had qualified for state Medicaid programs that filled those gaps. But bringing Zachary to Ohio would mean that coverage would go away for up to two years because the state of Ohio doesn’t honor Virginia’s Medicaid waiver through reciprocity, meaning there is no agreement between Ohio and Virginia that if a person qualifies in one state they do so as well in the other.
So, the Gibsons have scheduled Zachary for an evaluation to see if he qualifies for the waiver. They are still waiting for their appointment.
When the time for their appointment arrives, and Zachary is inevitably approved, they will then wait some more.
The waiting list for the programs Zachary needs to access are around 2-3 years. The average time active-duty military personnel are assigned to a post is 2-4 years.
It is possible that Gibson could be reassigned to a new post before his son is able to access the Medicaid he needs to fill the gaps where his insurance falls short.
There are 33 other states that have already solved this problem. Ohio is working on becoming the 34th.
As State Representative Scott Lipps pointed out in Tuesday’s Health Committee hearing on a bill to do this, the state certainly is working hard to be the last to adopt this measure, referencing other times Ohio has found itself to be the last state to do something the rest of the country has already done.
Lipps apologized personally to Gibson for the difficulties this has caused him and his family.
The personal apology was echoed by State Representative Janine Boyd as well, showing bipartisan recognition of the kind of pressures this puts on active duty military personnel who have family members in need of these benefits.
The bill to rectify this situation is moving relatively swiftly. It had its first hearing last week and supporter testimony this week.
At least one more hearing is expected before a vote can be held on the bill, which would be for opponents and interested parties to voice their opinion.
If the bill were to pass out of the House Health Committee, it could be in front of the entire chamber on the floor of the House within a few weeks.
But, that is where things could slow down again.
According to one of the joint sponsors of the bill, State Representative Rick Perales, the likelihood that it can make it to Governor Mike DeWine’s desk by the end of the year is low, but he is confident it will make it there by the end of the General Assembly next year.
If the bill does make it through the House, it will have to start over again from the beginning in the Senate, which is notoriously methodical about the bills it chooses to work on.
If the bill doesn’t get to the Senate before the end of this year and ends up spilling over into the spring of 2020, significant work on the bill may be delayed until after the Capital Improvements Budget is done and by then, lawmakers will once more be on summer break.
Only in 2020, that summer break is really campaigning season and lawmakers will not likely return to work on legislation until after the presidential election in November, leaving roughly six weeks to finalize any unfinished legislation.
Something that has been repeated by numerous lawmakers early in this current General Assembly is, “We just ran out of time.” Something else we have been hearing is, “There is plenty of time left in this General Assembly.”
For some of the bills that have already been introduced, and plenty of those that will be introduced between now and May of 2020, the former of those statements will be their fate.
We will see if the bill to help these military families is one of them.
The bill in question is House Bill 287, jointly bipartisan sponsored by Rick Perales and Allison Russon. It has no companion bill in the Senate.