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Reinstate AdultBasic

| Friday, April 5, 2013, 8:57 p.m.

Two years ago, one of the opening volleys of Gov. Tom Corbett's administration was elimination of AdultBasic, a respectable, 9-year-old program that provided health insurance for more than 40,000 working Pennsylvanians.

I strongly opposed Corbett's decision, noting at the time that it was “going to be devastating” and would actually drive up costs as more people were forced to use hospital emergency rooms as a primary source of medical care.

AdultBasic was not a freebie or a handout: It required a $36-per-month participant contribution, with the remainder of program costs funded through Pennsylvania's portion of tobacco company settlements. The program filled a big coverage gap by providing affordable health care to those earning too much to qualify for Medicaid — but not yet old enough to qualify for Medicare.

When Corbett and his compliant Republican majorities in the state House and Senate summarily ended AdultBasic, 500,000 Pennsylvanians were on its waiting list.

According to the state Insurance Department, 40 percent of the folks who lost AdultBasic enrolled in Blue Cross/Blue Shield plans that were more costly to them, while 4 percent obtained insurance through Medicaid. No one knows what happened to the remaining 56 percent.

As to the argument that Pennsylvania lacks a mechanism for refunding AdultBasic, a recent Commonwealth Court ruling held that tobacco settlement funds must go to providing health care for low-income people.

I call upon the governor to reinstate AdultBasic — a program that works and that helps people work — because it represents legal, moral and economically sound governance.

Ted Harhai

Harrisburg

The writer is a Democrat member of the state House representing portions of Westmoreland and Fayette counties.

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