Top Dem in Pennsylvania believes Corbett will soften on Medicaid expansion
By Mike Wereschagin
Published: Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Medicaid expansion, a major component of President Obama's health care law, might make a comeback in Pennsylvania mere months after GOP leaders rejected it, the top Democrat in the state Senate said Friday.
Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills, said he anticipates Gov. Tom Corbett getting behind the expansion in an effort to score a major policy victory and soften his image with voters as he heads into a re-election year. Costa said he expects a renewed effort from Corbett to push through a transportation funding package, one version of which passed the Senate but stalled in the House, robbing Corbett of a victory on one of his top priorities.
“This is one of those things that we have an obligation to do,” Costa said of transportation funding during an interview with Tribune-Review editors and reporters.
The Senate passed a $2.5 billion transportation funding measure, but the House failed to pass it after leaders linked it to a liquor privatization bill. The Senate bill raises money by increasing motorist fees and lifting a cap on wholesale gasoline sales taxes.
That tax increase, more than the bill's link with liquor privatization, is what killed it, said House Republican spokesman Steve Miskin.
“Is now the time to (impose) a $2.5 billion tax and fee increase? I'm not so sure,” Miskin said.
The Corbett administration increased pressure on lawmakers Thursday by announcing weight restrictions on 1,000 deteriorating bridges across the state, and Miskin said the House GOP will put forth a transportation funding bill “sooner rather than later.”
Expanding Medicaid could offer a quicker policy victory for Corbett, who has struggled with low approval ratings in polls, Costa said.
The expansion would add 35,000 jobs and $3 billion in economic activity to the state, according to a March report by the nonprofit Rand Corp. It would provide insurance for 340,000 people, the study found.
That could blunt criticisms by opponents who, like Costa, blame him for sluggish job growth and accuse him of cutting social services with little regard for the poor. About 63,000 fewer children were enrolled in medical assistance programs in July than in January 2011, when Corbett took office, according to Department of Public Welfare figures.
The expansion would “soften a very hard and rough image that the governor has right now as it relates to how he handles and treats people who are less well off,” Costa said.
But opposition to the expansion — which passed the Senate in a 40-10 vote June 30 — remains entrenched among House Republicans, who say they don't trust the federal government's promise to fund the expansion fully for three years, then at 90 percent thereafter.
“An expansion without reforms will bankrupt taxpayers,” Miskin said. The Rand study found it would increase state Medicaid spending by about $500 million by 2020. Miskin cited a federal commitment to pay 40 percent of special education costs. “It's never been higher than 17 percent. Look what's happened with the sequester, what's happened with other federal programs. No offense to the president, but words are not as strong as actions.”
Corbett hasn't softened his opposition either, spokeswoman Kelli Roberts said.
“The governor's position on Medicaid expansion has not changed,” said Roberts. “We continue to work with the federal government, asking for reforms to the system that will make the program more affordable and responsive to the needs of Pennsylvania.”
Mike Wereschagin is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7900 or email@example.com.
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.
- Peduto takes down Pittsburgh’s Redd Up crew
- Curtain call: Final wintry blast due to hit Western Pa.
- Fayette road crews turn focus to paving, pothole repairs
- Job cuts at AGH part of ‘strategic’ process
- Upper St. Clair woman’s death at Drexel probed as possible meningitis
- Newsmaker: Christine Jordanoff
- Parking tickets in Downtown Pittsburgh spark outrage
- Assessment appeals draw Mt. Lebanon residents’ ire
- Washington County judge: Evidence against him illegally obtained
- Redistricting spurs faceoff for Democratic state Reps. Molchany, Readshaw
- Qualifications of Peduto nominee for building inspection chief come up short