A Republican Presidential Candidate Just Gave One of the Most Stirring Defenses of Medicaid You’ll Ever See

Ohio Gov. John Kasich speaks during the prime-time Republican presidential debate on Aug. 6, 2015, at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Coming into Thursday’s Republican primary debate, John Kasich had one major strike against him among conservatives that also made him an interesting candidate. As governor of Ohio, he chose to accept Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, a move that, obviously, was anathema to the many members of his party who are seeking to kill off the health law. Moreover, he wasn’t sheepish about his decision. “Now, when you die and get to the meeting with St. Peter, he’s probably not going to ask you much about what you did about keeping government small,” Kasich said. “But he is going to ask you what you did for the poor. You better have a good answer.’”

Unsurprisingly, moderator Megyn Kelly asked Kasich about his Medicaid move (and St. Peter argument). And, once again, he didn’t back down, instead delivering one of the most succinct and stirring defenses of the health care program for America’s poor that I’ve ever seen. Watch the video to get the full, amped-up effect. A transcription is below.

First of all Megyn, you should know that President Reagan expanded Medicaid three or four times. Secondly, I had an opportunity to bring resources back to Ohio. To do what? To treat the mentally ill. Ten thousand of them sit in our prisons. It costs $22,500 a year to keep them in prison. I would rather get them their medication so they can lead a decent life. Secondly, we are rehabbing the drug-addicted. Eighty percent of the people in our prisons have addiction problems. We now treat them in prisons, release them in the community, and the recidivism rate is 10 percent. And everybody across this country knows the tsunami of drugs is threatening their very families. So we are treating them and getting them on their feet. And finally, the working poor, instead of having them come into the emergency rooms where it costs more where they’re sicker and we end up paying, we brought a program in here to make sure that people could get on their feet. And you know what, everybody has a right to their God-given purpose.

Read more of Slate’s coverage of the GOP primary.