Pa. Senate panel approves Medicaid expansion bill

Posted: June 30, 2013

HARRISBURG - A Senate panel late Friday approved a bill that would authorize Medicaid expansion in the state as part of the annual budget.

By a vote of 9-2, the Senate Health and Welfare Committee voted out an amendment to the welfare code that would clear the way for as many as 600,000 uninsured Pennsylvanians to be covered under the Affordable Care Act, also known as "Obamacare."

The vote may signal a shift on the issue. Gov. Corbett has been reluctant to accept Medicaid expansion, warning of expenses for the state in future years as the federal share of the cost decreases. But he let it be known Friday he would consider the language the committee - led by his fellow Republicans - approved.

The full Senate is expected to consider the bill Saturday ahead of Sunday night's budget deadline. And it may face a rough ride in the House.

"We are moving the process forward," said Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R., Jefferson), who supported the conditions the committee added. "We recognize the fact that Medicaid expansion is not right on its own."

The bill includes what committee chair Pat Vance (R., Cumberland) called "parameters," such as language to prevent federal officials from "unnecessarily" transferring children from a separate state insurance program to Medicaid.

"This is a huge step forward," said Sen. Vincent Hughes (D., Phila.), a staunch proponent of Medicaid expansion.

Corbett's spokesman said the conditions outlined in the bill sounded like those the governor wanted. "The governor has said that before you can have expansion, we have to reform Medicaid," Kevin Harley said. So we have to see what the specific language is."

On Friday, 33 House Republicans vowed in a letter to other members to oppose any budget bill that includes Medicaid expansion. Rep. Timothy Krieger (R., Westmoreland) one of the signers, warned that federal officials "are not in any position to keep that promise" of funding for the Medicaid expansion. "We will be left holding the bag."

Contact Amy Worden at 717-783-2584 or

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