Democrats slam Corbett's 'Healthy PA' proposal

Posted: January 09, 2014

For anyone who hadn't heard that many advocates for the uninsured are unhappy with Gov. Corbett's version of Medicaid expansion, a House Democratic Policy Committee hearing Wednesday shouted the news.

Five days after the administration held an open public hearing on the private-market draft plan at the National Constitution Center, the policy committee invited selected experts to discuss the issue in a small meeting room at the Fairmount Behavioral Health System in Roxborough. It was an odd place for a public hearing - attendees had to be escorted by staff on bathroom breaks and the public address system occasionally blared with announcements ( Code White!) - but no one seemed to mind.

Virtually everybody seemed to be in general agreement (Obamacare, including the optional Medicaid expansion, is good; Corbett's alternative proposal, if submitted in its current form, will do less for the uninsured, hurt some of those currently on Medicaid, damage community health centers, and create reams of red tape, and major parts ultimately will be rejected by the Obama administration).

Twenty-four other states plus the District of Columbia are already moving forward with an expansion, and a 25th, Michigan, won approval for its own alternative last week and will implement it soon. Corbett's proposal to insure an estimated 500,000 people, part of his broader "Healthy Pennsylvania" plan, would not take effect until 2015, at a loss of $7 million to $10 million a day in federal funds.

"Healthy PA is not Medicaid expansion. Healthy PA instead pokes so many holes in Medicaid law - 23 to be exact - that it is barely recognizable as Medicaid," said Sol B. Vazquez-Otero, senior mental health advocate for the Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania, referring to the draft plan's 23 requests to waive various federal regulations.

Concluded Rep. Mike Sturla (D., Lancaster), the committee chairman: "I don't think there is any way that you can look at the current proposal and see it as anything other than a stall tactic."

The Corbett administration was not represented at the hearing.

Administration officials have said in the past that the state's Medicaid program is already unsustainable, requiring 27 percent of the state's general fund budget, and that they don't trust the federal government to continue to fund the expansion as promised, leaving the state with a bigger bill in the future.




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