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Women's Health Advocates Call for SelectPlan Extension

Women’s health advocates in Pennsylvania are calling on the Corbett administration to extend a low-income women’s health insurance program set to expire at the end of the year.

The Women’s Health Caucus sent a letter Thursday to state Human Services Secretary Beverly Mackereth asking for a one-year extension of the SelectPlan for Women program, which provides coverage for gynecological exams, emergency contraception and breast and cervical cancer screenings for an estimated 90,000 women in the commonwealth.

“If they gave us an entire year, we would have enough time to transfer women over to the new program and get them the care that they need,” Sen. Judy Schwank (D-Berks), co-chair of the Women’s Health Caucus, said.

Many of the services provided by the SelectPlan Medicaid program will be covered under Gov. Corbett’s Healthy PA plan, which will offer subsidies to 500,000 low-income Pennsylvanians who purchase private insurance. Coverage under Healthy PA begins Jan. 1, 2015.

The concern is that low-income women will need to reapply for Healthy PA and will have difficulties navigating the health insurance marketplace.

“We’re very concerned that individuals who need care immediately will not be seen and served,” Schwank said.

Kait Gillis, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare, said that won’t happen.

“The Corbett administration will not let any of these women in Pennsylvania go without access to health care coverage – we will ensure that,” Gillis said in an email.

However, coverage will not be guaranteed.

Extending SelectPlan would allow officials to distribute information and assist women through the transition, according to Schwank.

“There has been no public relations planning,” she said. “There has been no way of informing the individuals on this plan that they are going to be losing that coverage.”

Gillis said the state is aware of the concerns raised by the Women’s Health Caucus, but no decisions have been made.

“As we are working to implement Healthy PA, we are coordinating with the federal government on any outstanding health care waivers, including SelectPlan,” she said.

The Erie, PA native has been a fellow in the WESA news department since May 2013. Having earned a bachelor's degree in print journalism from Duquesne University, he is now pursuing an M.A. in multi-media management. Michael describes his career aspiration as "I want to do it all in journalism."