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Election 2014: What To Know About Medicaid Expansion In PA

90.5 WESA is exploring several of the key issues being debated as part of the 2014 Pennsylvania gubernatorial campaign.

Medicaid Expansion

Gov. Tom Corbett’s Healthy Pennsylvania substitute for the federal Medicaid expansion was officially accepted by the Department of Health and Human Services on August 28. The plan would use federal subsidies to offer private insurance plans to more than 600,000 low-income residents who qualify.

Although missing many of the key elements that Corbett had originally pushed for — such as a work search requirement for enrollees — Healthy PA’s acceptance is a win for the Corbett administration. The program still includes Corbett’s proposed premium charges for those individuals who are above 100 percent of the poverty line. Moreover, the amount of already existing Medicaid plan options will be effectively reduced from 14 to two.

However, the upcoming rollout is predicated on a Corbett victory in November. Wolf has come out against Corbett’s refusal to expand Medicaid and he will no doubt attempt to strip Healthy PA of some the elements he finds unsavory if he is to win in the general. “If I'm elected governor, I'll just expand Medicaid," Wolf said.

Wolf has railed against Corbett for delaying the expansion of medical coverage to “hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians” over the last year. The Democratic challenger believes Corbett is finally understanding the “political reality” of accepting the Medicaid proposal, and that it is imperative that Pennsylvania expands its medical coverage to all citizens, regardless of income.

Sharon Ward, director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, estimates that Corbett left $3.3 billion Medicaid expansion on the table. However, Corbett was not tempted by the federal money, and instead pushed his Healthy PA as a private sector alternative. Corbett has touted Healthy PA as a Pennsylvania-specific program — not a “one-size-fits-all approach” like Medicaid. In addition, Corbett says that the current Medicaid reimbursement rates do not incentivize primary care physicians to care for Medicaid patients, and that a private alternative made the most sense for both the patients and the doctors in the state.

As it stands, those who qualify for Healthy PA benefits can sign up as early as Dec. 1, and they could start receiving their benefits once the new year begins.

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