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Corbett unveils new health care plan for PA; still needs federal approval

Updated: Monday, September 16 2013, 07:01 PM CDT
Reported by: Donna Kirker Morgan

HARRISBURG -- On Monday, Gov. Tom Corbett unveiled a plan to expand Medicaid in Pennsylvania that could add another 500,000 low-income people to the state's Medicaid rolls.

The governor, one of the biggest opponents of the Affordable Care Act -- also known as Obamacare -- insists that his plan would not expand on an entitlement program.

The administration is calling the Corbett plan "Healthy Pennsylvania," and it is unlike all other plans in the U.S. Corbett still hasn't gotten federal approval, which begs the question -- will his plan be dead on arrival?

An advocate of low-income people told CBS 21 today that they are happy he is now talking about adding people to the rolls, but wishes they would just take the traditional route laid out in the Affrodable Care Act, and then work towards these revisions.

Corbett's administration has repeatedly said that Medicaid expansion eventually would be unaffordable for Pennsyvlania. 

Corbett toured the Harrisburg Hospital emergency room today to launch his Medicaid plan. At this hospital, they've developed a unique way to provide quality care while also reducing costs. He thinks his proposed plan will do the same thing for Pennsylvania as a whole.

"This plan works for Pennsylvania," Corbett said.

The plan includes three main components: one, people making less than $15,000 a year would become eligible for Medicaid but they would have to pay monthly premium; two, it would alter the current model for new Medicaid enrollees; and finally, there would be a work search requirement.

"This is just common sense -- affordable price and affordable for the people of Pennsylvania," Corbett said.

There are still hurdles, though. Altering the current model means that federal dollars nomrally would be sent to the state to expand the current program.

Instead, Corbett is asking to take those federal dollars and to let people choose for themselves what private insurance they would like to buy.

"These individuals, through the healthy Pennsylvania plan, would have the ability to purchase private insurance plans through the federal health insurance exchange," Corbett explained.

The other hurdle is the work-search requirement; the federal government already has said no to such a link. This may be one of the biggest hurdles the plan faces.

"I don't think it will destroy plan at all. It's beneficial we try to help them, if they're not able to find a job, that they look for one," the governor said.
After his plan was unveiled, local officials reacted. 

Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-9) issued the following statement regarding the health care plan announced today by Governor Tom Corbett:
“The Senate voted overwhelmingly on June 30 to expand healthcare coverage and access in Pennsylvania under the Affordable Care Act. That measure, authored by Sen. Pat Vance, R-30, was supported by 40 Senators, including 17 of 27 Republican Senators. It featured numerous substantial Medicaid reforms designed to ensure future sustainability."

“Today’s announcement by Gov. Corbett is a huge step toward securing that mutual objective, and I applaud him for taking this step. It would be foolish to leave billions of Pennsylvania tax dollars in Washington, D.C., when that money can be used to expand healthcare coverage and access to the residents of our state in a fiscally responsible way," the release quoted him as saying.

"It is good to see Gov. Corbett acknowledge the reality that a majority of Pennsylvanians already understand: Medicaid Expansion is vital to the health of Pennsylvania families, and to our economy," Antoinette Kraus, director of the Pennsylvania Health Access Network, said in a statement. 

Expanding coverage right away will not only protect 613,000 low-income Pennsylvanians who will finally have access to stable, affordable health coverage, it will also generate $522 million in state budget savings in 2014 and keep us on track to create 35,000 new, good-paying jobs across the Commonwealth, the statement read.

Bruce MacLeod, an emergency room physician who is also the president-elect of the Pennsyvlania Medical Society, said, "We know that if you have access to healthcare, you live longer, and you're not as sick."

Macleod also says the fact that people will buy their own insurance means there will be more health plans available at competitive prices.

"I think it will go a long way. I think you're going to see a lot of innovations because you're going to have 500-thousand more people buying insurance. The insurance company is going to have to come up with products; they're going to have to manage those populations. I think it's going to go a long way to improving their health," he added.

CBS 21 news also spoke to Chris Lilienthal, who works for the state budget and policy center. He said that while the center is happy that Corbett is working to get more Pennsylvanians access to health care, the center hopes this doesn't lessen health care benefits for those who already receive them.Corbett unveils new health care plan for PA; still needs federal approval

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