Referring to government medical assistance spending as "health care" is a misnomer. Too often programs such as Medicaid and Medicare focus on paying for treatment of illnesses rather than attempting to keep patients healthy.
Ohio officials want to change that and, perhaps, save a few taxpayer dollars in the process. They should be as aggressive in their campaign as the federal government will allow.
Medicaid is a state-federal program providing care primarily to low-income people. While states must fund substantial shares of the cost, Washington sets the rules.
Gov. John Kasich's administration wants to put the "health" back in Medicaid health care. It plans to work with the private Catalyst for Payment Reform.
The Catalyst for Payment Reform approach is to link Ohioans' health to Medicaid payments. To that end, managed care companies that serve Medicaid patients in Ohio are to be asked to sign contracts in which payments are linked to provider's initiatives to keep people healthy.
That would be a major change. Virtually all government payments for Medicaid and Medicare are reimbursements for treatment after patients have become ill. Campaigns to convince people to stop smoking, keep their weight under control, follow doctors' orders and engage in other healthy behaviors are comparatively rare.
Ohio officials are right to attack the problem aggressively. If it can manage to cut Medicaid costs by just 1 percent, it will save state taxpayers about $140 million a year (based on last year's state Medicaid cost of $14 billion).
More importantly, the effort may improve the lives of tens of thousands of Ohioans. That is a goal worth pursuing.