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State Senate approves Medicaid expansion

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Sunday, June 30, 2013, 8:48 p.m.

HARRISBURG — The state Senate on Sunday approved a bill aimed at establishing conditions for Medicaid expansion in Pennsylvania under Obamacare.

Republican Gov. Tom Corbett has thus far resisted joining the federal program, but he has not made a final decision. An estimated 600,000 to 800,000 uninsured Pennsylvanians would receive health coverage under the program.

A summary of the Senate bill by the Public Health and Welfare Committee says the Department of Public Welfare will pursue an expansion of Medicaid Oct. 1.

The Senate passed the bill 40-10 with no debate, but it appears to be running into a roadblock in the House. Both chambers have Republican majorities.

House Health Committee Chairman Matthew Baker, R-Tioga County, said expanding Medicaid is “fiscally irresponsible and unsustainable,” despite federal promises of multi-billion dollar funding.

Numerous House Republicans said the federal government can't be trusted to keep its promises for long-range funding and that it would leave Pennsylvania taxpayers stuck with the bill.

The Senate Medicaid language is tucked into the bill authorizing expenditures in the Department of Public Welfare. The state budget, due by midnight Sunday night, would not be complete without the welfare code.

House Republicans seem unconcerned, suggesting there's a way to handle it.

Under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, states must decide whether to expand Medicaid or not. About half of the states have indicated they will do so.

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