Inquirer Editorial: Bad for their health

Posted: March 03, 2011

If Gov. Corbett plans to build his legacy by dismantling the state's social-safety net, then he's off to a good start by tossing thousands of working poor Pennsylvanians off the health-insurance rolls this week.

That may pale in comparison to the expected cuts in state funding for schools and other social services yet to come with the governor's first budget proposal. Even so, the collapse Monday of the state's subsidized insurance program is an embarrassing failure for the new Republican administration.

For the nearly 41,000 working poor who can ill-afford to replace the low-cost coverage offered by the adultBasic program, the failure of Corbett and GOP legislative leaders to plug a funding gap could have dire, even life-threatening, consequences.

Like millions of other Americans going without health insurance, those who lost adultBasic coverage Monday are likely to risk their health by putting off seeking medical care, and face financial ruin if they become seriously ill. The cost of any charity care they receive, ultimately, will drive up costs for everyone who has health insurance.

The program ran into money troubles for the simple reason that the state's four Blue Cross plans refused to extend full funding after Dec. 31. That was the expiration date on their agreement with former Gov. Edward G. Rendell, who convinced the Blues to provide the subsidy as an extension of their social mission as nonprofit insurers.

Corbett apparently didn't even try to jawbone the Blues into continuing their contributions, even while many residents are still struggling from the recession. Nor did the governor give any indication he pushed state lawmakers to find workable solutions for stopgap funding for adultBasic, including tapping into the legislature's surplus.

An agreement the governor brokered with the Blues under which adultBasic subscribers can get replacement coverage despite chronic health conditions is something of a cushion. But the alternative health plan is many times the price, for inadequate coverage.

Now the state's uninsured residents may have to wait until 2014 for affordable insurance, which will be offered as part of the federal health-care overhaul. But Corbett's legal handiwork while he was the state attorney general may even poke holes in that safety net: He joined the states' lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act, which, if successful, could unravel even the best hope for the governor's newly uninsured Pennsylvania constituents.

That's not a legacy of which Corbett should be proud.

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