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Pennsylvania Economy League cites benefits of expanding Medicaid

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Thursday, April 18, 2013, 7:00 p.m.
 

Expanding the state's Medicaid program, as called for by the federal health care reform law, would produce $4.4 billion in savings over 10 years for the state, according to an economic analysis released Friday by the Pennsylvania Economy League.

The savings would be achieved by shifting people receiving state-funded health coverage onto the federal insurance program for the poor, and by providing coverage to uninsured people who rack up medical bills that the state ends up covering, said the league, a statewide public policy research organization with offices in Philadelphia, Harrisburg and Pittsburgh.

“This analysis is focused on the decision in front of the state government right now: whether to accept the Medicaid expansion and the substantial federal funding that comes with that decision, or not,” Steve Wray, managing director of league, said in a written statement. “Our analysis shows that the federal funding that accompanies expansion would support expanded employment, expanded economic activity, state program savings and expanded tax revenues for the commonwealth.”

Gov. Tom Corbett has rejected the federal government's offer of paying 100 percent of the bill to expand the program, which would provide coverage to an estimated half a million Pennsylvanians. The Republican governor, who opposed the health care reform law, said he could not risk adding new costs to state taxpayers.

A call to the governor's office Thursday was not immediately returned.

The expansion would inject $32 billion into the economy over 10 years, according to the league's analysis. But federal funds would be reduced over several years from 100 percent in 2014-2016 to 90 percent in 2020 and subsequent years.

Additional spending on medical care for previously uninsured people would lead to thousands of jobs over the next decade, the league said.

Critics have countered that Medicaid expansion would only benefit large hospitals and force an unfair burden onto taxpayers.

“The people economically benefitting are special interest groups, not individuals needing health coverage and working families that will have to foot the bill,” said Jennifer Stefano, spokeswoman in Philadelphia for Americans for Prosperity, a group that advocates for limited government.

Separately, the Pennsylvania Health Access Network, a statewide coalition of groups that advocates for expanding Medicaid, held a series of rallies across the state, including in front of PNC Park, on Thursday urging state officials to take the federal money.

Alex Nixon is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7928 or anixon@tribweb.com.

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