Democrats pressing Corbett to expand Medicaid

Posted: January 26, 2013

In a bid to build pressure on Gov. Corbett to expand Medicaid next year, Democratic members of the Pennsylvania Senate Appropriations Committee met Thursday in Philadelphia with city health officials, hospital experts, and advocates for the poor.

The session in City Hall came less than two weeks before Corbett is to present his budget proposal for fiscal 2014. Were he to opt for Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, provisions for the rollout starting in October would have to be built into that budget, officials said.

"This is hugely important," said Sen. Vincent Hughes (D., Phila.), ranking Democrat on the committee. Hughes called the meeting to draw attention to the economic impact that an annual infusion of $4 billion in federal money could have on Pennsylvania and a large portion of its uninsured population.

The Corbett administration has shown no signs that it will opt for the Medicaid expansion, citing additional costs that would accrue to the state despite the federal government's plan to pay 100 percent of the expansion at first and 90 percent from 2020 on.

"Like Sen. Hughes, we agree that it is important to examine the impacts on Pennsylvania's economy, which is why we cannot ignore the $4.1 billion in state-only taxpayer costs over the next eight years that could occur as a result of expanding Medicaid in Pennsylvania," Carey Miller, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Welfare, said in response to a request for reaction to Hughes' meeting.

"We continue to have concerns about how taxpayers can bear those costs, which we'll be discussing with the legislature in order to find a sustainable solution for Pennsylvania that continues to address the health and well-being of our residents."

The Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured estimated that 719,000 additional Pennsylvanians would enroll in Medicaid by 2022 were Corbett to expand it. The expansion would apply to people with incomes of up to 133 percent of the poverty level, or up to $14,856 for an individual.

Affordable Care Act subsidies for the purchase of health insurance on the exchanges it mandates apply to people who make up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level.

Al Black, chief operating officer of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, said that "one of the greatest losses in not expanding Medicaid" is the loss of "opportunity to put together all the various pieces of the system."


Contact Harold Brubaker at 215-854-4651 or hbrubaker@phillynews.com.

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