Medicaid dispute back in Pa. Senate

In this June 30, 2013 photo, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, surrounded by House Republicans, reacts after signing the 2013-14 state budget after the House approved the Senate-passed budget in Harrisburg, Pa. At left is House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. William Adolph, R-Delaware County, and at right is Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley. (AP Photo/The Patriot-News, Dan Gleiter)
In this June 30, 2013 photo, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, surrounded by House Republicans, reacts after signing the 2013-14 state budget after the House approved the Senate-passed budget in Harrisburg, Pa. At left is House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. William Adolph, R-Delaware County, and at right is Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley. (AP Photo/The Patriot-News, Dan Gleiter) (AP)
Posted: July 04, 2013

HARRISBURG - With the House adjourned for the summer, a dispute over Medicaid expansion has shifted back to the Senate, which now must tackle this thorny issue as well as a possible last-minute snag in approving part of the rescue plan for Philadelphia's schools.

The Republican-led House voted Monday night to remove Medicaid expansion language that the Senate, on a bipartisan vote, had inserted into the welfare code. That code authorizes spending for an array of health programs.

Without passage of the welfare code, there is no money for the programs, which serve the sick and the elderly. With no final passage of other bills that still await action - the fiscal and tax codes - Philadelphia schools may lose a piece of their rescue package.

Senate aides familiar with budget negotiations said that no decision had been made, but that a strong faction believed the chamber had little to gain by forcing the Medicaid issue, as Gov. Corbett had not let them know if he would support the expansion.

There was also concern over language the House added Monday to the fiscal code to allow controversial so-called payday lending in the state. That last-minute insertion could jeopardize a piece of the schools rescue package: the $45 million in interest and penalties on a debt Pennsylvania has owed to the federal government for several years, but which Washington has agreed to forgive.

Few legislators were talking Tuesday about how the next act might unfold in the struggle over whether to expand Medicaid coverage to as many as 600,000 lower-income Pennsylvanians.

"It has to be a decision made by our caucus" Wednesday," said Drew Crompton, counsel and chief of staff to Senate President Joe Scarnati (R., Jefferson). "I don't know exactly where they're going to fall on this one."

Meanwhile, Welfare Secretary Beverly Mackareth warned that inaction on the welfare code would have consequences of its own.

"Failure of the General Assembly to pass a welfare code bill in a timely manner will put millions of Pennsylvanians at risk," she said. "It would mean the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars to fund Pennsylvania's health-care system, including funding for hospitals and nursing homes."

In addition, administration officials said, delays on the various code bills could hold up funding for the state-related universities, Temple, Pittsburgh, Lincoln, and Pennsylvania State.

The Medicaid expansion option is available to the state under the Affordable Care Act. Corbett has said he wants to negotiate a flexible Medicaid expansion plan that would require modest co-pays for recipients and other cost-cutting measures.


Contact Amy Worden at 717-783-2584 or aworden@phillynews.com or follow @inkyamy on Twitter.

Inquirer staff writers Angela Couloumbis and Josh Fatzick contributed to this article.

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