Washington (CNN)Would-be presidential candidate John Kasich, defended his expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act on Wednesday, while slamming President Barack Obama's signature law at the same time.
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Kasich says he's not an Obamacare hypocrite
Kasich, a second-term governor of Ohio, told CNN's Jake Tapper on "The Lead" that his support of a Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, did not amount to support for the Obamacare itself.
Opposition to Obamacare remains a key litmus test for Republican presidential hopefuls.
"First of all, I don't support Obamacare; I want to repeal it," Kasich said. "But I did expand Medicaid because I was able to bring Ohio money back home to treat the mentally ill, the drug addicted and help the working poor get health care."
When Tapper pointed out the Medicaid expansion was a key part of Obamacare, Kasich name-checked popular conservative President Ronald Reagan in defending his move.
"Listen, Ronald Reagan expanded Medicaid, Jake," he said, claiming that "expanding Medicaid is a separate issue."
"I'm going to bring back $14 billion of Ohio money back to Ohio so we can deal with some of our vexing problems," Kasich said.
Other Republican governors, however, refused to take the additional federal money because of their opposition to Obamacare.
Kasich, though, maintained he wasn't a hypocrite.
"When you have an opportunity to bring the $14 billion back of Ohio money back to Ohio, that's not Obamacare, that's Medicaid," he repeated. "I've never said I was against the Medicaid program."
If he enters the race, which appears increasingly likely, Kasich would compete for room near the center of the party, possibly even to the left of establishment heavyweight Jeb Bush.