Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Support NHPR's local journalism that brings clarity, context, and community!

Gov. John Kasich On Health Policy, Religion And Inclusiveness


Governor John Kasich of Ohio announced this week he's running for the Republican nomination for president. Gov. Kasich was a member of the House of Representatives for 18 years and was chairman of the House Budget Committee, then became a commentator for Fox News and a managing director at Lehman Brothers, until the firm collapsed in 2008. He was re-elected governor of one of the nation's most politically-important states last year by more than 30 points, winning even thoroughly-Democratic Cuyahoga County. Gov. Kasich joins us now from the campaign trail in South Carolina. Thanks so much for being with us.

JOHN KASICH: Thank you, sir.

SIMON: Governor, can you give us one or two ideas that you think your opponents don't have?

KASICH: I don't think about what they don't have. I don't think in those terms. But for me, you know, I was not only the Budget Committee chairman and the chief architect of the '97 agreement where we balanced the budget for the first time since we walked on the moon and had big surpluses, but I also served on the Armed Services Committee, so I was deeply engaged in national security policy. And my private sector experience was invaluable. And now I am an executive of, you know, one of the most important states in America. I don't mean just politically, but economically. And no matter who you are - drug addicted, mentally ill, working poor, autistic, disabled, minority - you're all in the Ohio family. Everybody should have a chance to rise. That's our philosophy in Ohio and that's my philosophy for America.

SIMON: Do you want to overturn the Affordable Care Act?

KASICH: I'd like to replace it with a health care system that would be market-driven, that would begin to shift us to quality-based health care rather than quantity-based health care. In other words, with the primary care doctor being the shepherd to shepherd us through our health care needs, with insurance companies and hospitals working together to share profits, to share the gains they make by keeping people healthy rather than treating them on the basis of how they're sick.

SIMON: It's often pointed out that you use the Affordable Care Act law to expand Medicaid coverage in Ohio. Does that suggest to you that the law known as Obamacare has helped people?

KASICH: Well, look, I like the fact that we've eliminated pre-existing conditions. I think that's really important. But Ronald Reagan expanded Medicaid a number of times and he didn't need Obamacare, OK? And my feeling about Medicaid is we've been able to manage this program. And by bringing Ohio money back to Ohio to treat the mentally ill, the drug addicted and the working poor, it's not - we're not only ahead on an arithmetic basis, but we think it's the right issue in terms of giving people a chance and an ability to be lifted.

SIMON: Biographical question - did you ever consider becoming a priest?

KASICH: Well, when I was a kid, really early in my life, you know, all Catholic altar boys I think at one time or another thought about being a priest. But then that just wasn't in the cards for me.

SIMON: But I gather religion is an important factor in your life.

KASICH: Well, you know, it was important when I was a young boy. And then, you know, like many other young people, I drifted away and God became a rabbit's foot. When my parents were killed, it was a dramatic time. And I had some folks come to me and say, you know, you need to figure out where you are on faith. So I went into a long discovery period about whether God exists. Well, does he care about me? Will he listen to me? You know, so it's important to me, but look, I've got to stress, you know, whenever anybody talks about faith and people always looking to call him a hypocrite, OK? It's like what C.S. Lewis does. He says I understand the code, but I don't adhere to it. So I try to do my best, but, you know, as I said at my announcement speech, I'm a flawed man, but faith is important to me.

SIMON: Is it important to your politics?

KASICH: No. I mean, I don't look at the Bible to figure out what I'm going to do. But what - I guess what I would tell you is that the way I look at this is I am sensitive to the poor, the disadvantaged. I want to make sure that they have an opportunity. And in faith, I'm a believer in the do's - you know, love your neighbor, love your enemy. I don't spend a lot of time thinking on the don'ts 'cause I can't get the do's right.

SIMON: You've run for office a number of times. Have you ever asked Donald Trump for a contribution?

KASICH: No, I don't think I ever have.

SIMON: Does he have your cell phone number?

KASICH: I don't think he has. Do you have my cell phone number?

SIMON: (Laughter) I'm not sure. I'll check with our producer - we...

KASICH: What are we now, like, 10 questions here?

SIMON: ...Might to do this interview.

KASICH: This sounds like the David Letterman let me give you my 10 reasons.

SIMON: Yeah. Well, obviously...

KASICH: Aren't you bored with this? I mean, look, I'm not interested in these questions.

SIMON: All right, Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, thanks so much for being with us.

KASICH: It's great to be with you (laughter). And that'll be the strangest ending to an interview you'll be making in this political season, I'll bet. Hey, God bless you. Thanks for giving me the chance to talk.

SIMON: Thank you, Governor.

KASICH: All right, bye. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

You make NHPR possible.

NHPR is nonprofit and independent. We rely on readers like you to support the local, national, and international coverage on this website. Your support makes this news available to everyone.

Give today. A monthly donation of $5 makes a real difference.