Inquirer Editorial: One more reason for Medicaid expansion

A protester pushing for Medicaid expansion at the Texas capitol this week.
A protester pushing for Medicaid expansion at the Texas capitol this week. (ERIC GAY / Associated Press)
Posted: March 08, 2013

Don't look for Gov. Corbett to thank the state judge who just ordered him to reinstate funding to provide working-poor Pennsylvanians with greater access to health insurance. But Commonwealth Court President Judge Dan Pellegrini in effect made it that much easier for the governor to adopt the right course on a key health-care policy decision - one that could benefit thousands of Pennsylvania residents now going without adequate medical coverage.

Pellegrini ruled that Corbett and state lawmakers erred in early 2011 by diverting federal tobacco-settlement funds from the state's adultBasic and Medicaid insurance programs to other needs. If it stands, the ruling means Corbett will have to restore funding to insure more low-income adults.

The ruling came on behalf of 100 people tossed off adultBasic, a program offering health coverage for the state's working poor, after Pennsylvania's Blue Cross insurers dropped their support for it. Corbett scrapped the initiative, saying the state couldn't afford to assume the cost.

Now, though, the case is even stronger for the governor to enact an expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare, which would come at virtually no initial cost to the state. Adding people to the rolls would be funded fully by Washington for three years, and at 90 percent for many years afterward.

Despite that big, fat financial carrot, Corbett so far has refused to go along with the optional Medicaid move, asserting that the state's long-term costs would exceed the federal share. Yet under the judge's ruling, the state's costs to insure the working poor would rise anyway. So why not take federal funds to boost Medicaid?

Expanding Medicaid would cover thousands more of the state's uninsured than even the 41,000 formerly enrolled in adultBasic. It would also create an estimated 41,200 new jobs in 2016. As many as 682,000 uninsured, low-income residents could be in line for an affordable health plan.

It's telling that all around Corbett, both Republican and Democratic governors are reaching a very different conclusion on Medicaid expansion. Just last week, Gov. Christie followed the example of his fellow Republican governor in Ohio and endorsed the Medicaid provision.

Christie said studies showed that New Jersey's economy would flourish with the influx of Medicaid funds, along with 300,000 more New Jerseyans who have reliable access to care. The Keystone State's health-care providers have sought to make the same case to Corbett.

The Pellegrini ruling raises the cost of Corbett's inaction on health-care reform - let's hope to the breaking point.

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