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State DPW Head Sounds Optimistic Note on Possible Medicaid Expansion

The head of the state Department of Public Welfare is sounding an optimistic note about a possible Medicaid expansion in Pennsylvania.

Acting DPW secretary Bev Mackereth said she’s following up with federal officials about the topic of adding hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians to the government-run health insurance program.

She said federal officials have been forthcoming with information to the best of their ability.

"The federal government has given us lots answers and lots of information," Mackereth said. "The problem is the information is not specific to Pennsylvania. It’s very general and every state is different."

One factor complicating the decision is Pennsylvania’s now-defunct adultBasic insurance program, which may keep the state from receiving 100 percent compensation from the federal government for the Medicaid expansion.

Mackereth said while the focus has been on how expanding Medicaid could be unsustainable, the state’s existing Medicaid system really is unsustainable as-is.

"We have a list of what the mandated services are that we provide," she said. "The optional list is as long. And that’s what we’ve done and that’s what’s driven up our costs. So we’re at a point now where it is so expensive, our packages as well, that we need to look at, what can reform look like?"

Mackereth said she expects to receive a final answer to that in a meeting with federal officials scheduled for Tuesday.

Gov. Tom Corbett met with U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius last week.

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