Despite GOP skeptics, Democrats intensify push for Medicaid expansion in Pa.
HARRISBURG — After months of talking with the Corbett administration about expanding Medicaid, a federal official in the agency overseeing the program said Thursday he could not predict how close they are to agreement.
Democrats in the state House and Senate are pushing Republican Gov. Tom Corbett to join the program as the 2013-14 budget is adopted by June 30.
Paul Dioguardi, director of intergovernmental affairs for Health and Human Services, said Pennsylvania “would greatly benefit” by joining.
The top Republican state senator says a bill to expand Medicaid eligibility will come up for a floor vote next week.
Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati said Thursday that Republicans will prepare legislation that puts reasonable conditions on an expansion. An expansion would cover hundreds of thousands of uninsured adults.
Scarnati says one condition could require that children covered by the Children's Health Insurance Program cannot be forced by the federal government to switch into Medicaid.
The government offered states “a very favorable deal,” Dioguardi said — it will pay 100 percent of expanded costs for three years and at least 90 percent after that.
In Pennsylvania, that could extend coverage to about 600,000 low-income people, Dioguardi said.
It would pump federal resources into the state, estimated at $2 billion annually in a Rand Corp. study, and help reduce “uncompensated care” for which the state subsidizes hospitals and health care facilities that treat people without insurance, he said.
A Corbett spokeswoman said the administration continues to work with the federal agency.
“We're committed to continuing discussions ... and hope that HHS will keep an open mind to innovation and flexibility so that we can build a program that works for our residents,” said Corbett's spokeswoman, Christine Cronkright. “We ultimately will not be forced into a one-size-fits-all program because it is consistent with Washington's goals.”
Cronkright noted that HHS said if federal funding decreases, Pennsylvania could opt out at any time.
“This is troubling policy and is not what citizens should expect,” she said. “We believe it's common sense to build a sustainable program.”
Dioguardi said HHS is not aware of any public proposal from Corbett's aides or a plan before the Legislature. The state Department of Public Welfare has spelled out concerns in letters to the agency.
About half the states agreed to participate in the expanded Medicare program under the Affordable Care Act.
Acting state Health Secretary Beverly Mackereth on Monday met with HHS officials. She and other Corbett aides have pushed for flexibility on issues such as cost-sharing and job training.
U.S. Rep. Joseph Pitts, R-Chester County, who chairs a congressional subcommittee studying Medicaid expansion, cautioned against it in testimony on Thursday before a state House Health Committee in Harrisburg.
“Medicaid is already in deep trouble, and expansion is going to make it worse,” Pitts said. “When someone already $17 trillion in debt promises to pay 90 percent of a hugely expensive new program, you should be very, very skeptical. When the inevitable happens, the state General Assembly will be left holding the bag.”
Drew Gonshorowski, a policy analyst for the conservative Heritage Foundation, said Medicaid expansion for most states “will begin to cost the state once match rates are reduced from 100 percent” after three years.
Democratic state Rep. Dan Frankel of Squirrel Hill called the House Health Committee hearing a sham that was stacked with expansion opponents.
Brad Bumsted is Trib Total Media's state Capitol writer. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Rossi: Wild Wednesday proves Steelers rule
- Starkey: Rutherford hits jackpot with Kessel
- 2B Walker, Pirates smash through Tigers pitching in road victory
- Instances of hacking may be up, but indictments against Chinese military impactful, experts say
- Penguins get their man in making trade with Toronto for Kessel
- Penguins notebook: Rutherford proves savvy in deal
- Higher school taxes prevail in Western Pennsylvania, Trib finds
- Steelers submit application to play host to Super Bowl in 2023
- Group takes veterans, seniors in WWII-era planes at Unity airport
- Pitt researchers using $4M grant to study viruses carried by mosquitoes, develop vaccines
- Government contests sale of GE appliance business to competitor Electrolux