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As the pandemic rages, Gov. Wolf wants Pennsylvanians to sign up for health insurance

Margaret J. Krauss
90.5 WESA
At a press conference on Jan. 5 2022, Gov. Tom Wolf urged Pennsylvanians to buy health insurance, and said he and his administration are closely watching the state’s case surge.

Gov. Tom Wolf wants Pennsylvanians who are without healthcare, or who struggle to pay for it, to sign up for the state-administered insurance marketplace — Pennie — before the open-enrollment deadline at midnight on Jan. 15.

“When everybody has access to health insurance, that’s a good thing for everybody in Pennsylvania,” Wolf said at a press conference outside Pittsburgh on Wednesday. “That helps all of us.”

Some 360,000 residents have purchased health insurance through Pennie, launched last year. It is not an insurance company – the plans are available elsewhere – but Pennie is the link to “subsidies available to offset the cost of monthly premiums and out-of-pocket expenses,” said Zach Sherman, Pennie’s executive director.

More than 90% of Pennie users receive financial assistance, worth an average of $450 per month, Sherman said.

The program has the opportunity to benefit many more Pennsylvanians, and they can rely on its longevity, said State Representative Dan Frankel, Democratic chair of the House Health committee.

“In an era where there is extraordinary partisanship on issues of public health and healthcare, there was a bipartisan agreement that got this done,” said Frankel. “That’s why people should feel comfortable signing up for this.”

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic helped spur Pennie’s creation, and Wolf said he and his staff are closely watching the latest surge in the commonwealth.

“The concern right now is with the hospitals,” he said, referring to efforts that would prevent healthcare systems from being overwhelmed. The state has asked the federal government to send emergency assistance teams to stressed hospitals. “[FEMA] sent two, we asked for more,” and assigned them to Scranton and York.

Members of the Pennsylvania National Guard are also working in long-term care facilities, and Wolf said the administration, the Department of Health, and the legislature are “working together to try to figure out what more we can do to help the health care system.” However, he made no commitment to another emergency declaration or other specific actions to respond to the significant increase of cases.

Margaret J. Krauss is WESA’s senior reporter. She covers development and transportation, and has produced award-winning podcasts on housing, work, and Pittsburgh’s lesser-known history. Before joining the newsroom full time, she covered the challenges facing Pennsylvania cities as a statewide reporter, and spent another life as an assistant editor for National Geographic Kids Magazine in Washington, D.C. She can be reached at