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Would Full Medicaid Expansion In PA Cause Coverage Glitches?

The federally-approved waiver for Medicaid expansion in Pennsylvania is set to begin covering hundreds of thousands of newly eligible Pennsylvanians in January. Depending on who’s governor-elect at that point, there may be some changes.

Democratic nominee Tom Wolf has said he would implement a full Medicaid expansion if elected governor in November.

“The waivers allow the next governor to do that,” said Wolf on a Monday campaign stop in Harrisburg. “As far as I can tell, just the plain expansion of Medicaid as it’s been presented will allow Pennsylvanians to get health care at a lower cost than HealthyPA.”

Wolf said he didn’t think Medicaid expansion would result in hiccups in health care coverage for people enrolled in HealthyPA insurance plans.

The Corbett administration suggested last month, when the HealthyPA waiver was approved, that coverage could be interrupted if a change in the governor’s office resulted in Medicaid expansion, without some of the compromises negotiated between the state and federal government.  

“I think it would be unfortunate for whoever is in office in January to undo this,” said Corbett’s policy director Jennifer Branstetter in late August.

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said states can alter the terms of any waiver.

“Any changes would have to agreed upon by the state and CMS,” said spokesman Aaron Albright. “I can’t speculate beyond that,” he said, when asked whether changes would cause coverage disruptions.

The waiver itself says suspension or termination requires six months’ notice.

Wolf objects to Gov. Tom Corbett’s HealthyPA plan chiefly because it would require premiums for some people newly eligible for subsidized health care.

“I would not want to cause any disruption, and I would want to do it in a way that causes the least amount of disruption,” said Wolf. “But to me, the expansion of Medicaid would be fairer, less expensive, and give more people better access to healthcare than HealthyPA.”

The HealthyPA premiums, amounting to 2 percent of a person’s income, would apply to people earning between 100 and 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or, for a single person, anyone making between $12,000 and $15,000 a year.

Corbett’s HealthyPA plan provides incentives that could let people reduce their premiums.

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