CHICAGO — An Ohio legislative board Monday approved an expansion of the state's Medicaid program under the new federal health care law.

It's a victory for Gov. John Kasich, who will be able to bypass the state General Assembly to expand the program. Kasich is one of a handful of Republican governors who has pushed for the move despite heavy opposition from Ohio's GOP-controlled state legislature.

The Ohio Controlling Board, a panel that includes the state budget director and six legislators, approved the expansion with a 5-2 vote that accepts $2.5 billion in federal aid for the expansion. The move will cover an additional 275,000 low-income Ohioans.

"Together with the General Assembly we've improved both the quality of care from Medicaid and its value for taxpayers," Kasich said in a statement released after the controlling board's vote. "Today's action takes another positive step in this mutual effort. I look forward to continuing our partnership with the General Assembly to build upon the progress we've already made to make Medicaid work better for Ohioans."

Kasich proposed the expansion in February as part of his new two-year budget. He said at the time the state would save $235 million by expanding the program, because 90,000 people who are now covered by Medicaid but earn more than 138% of the federal poverty line will be taken off the rolls.

Critics of the expansion, including top lawmakers, called Kasich's move an end-run around the General Assembly, which has blocked the expansion since early this year.

Opponents, including lawmakers and the conservative groups Buckeye Institute and 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, said they would file a lawsuit saying the controlling board overstepped its authority.

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