Battle to expand Medicaid in Pa. could soon heat up
By Brad Bumsted
Published: Sunday, June 9, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
HARRISBURG — Jack Treadway has a doctorate in political science but doesn't have the foggiest idea who is right on the issue of expanding Medicaid in Pennsylvania.
Treadway hears the arguments from both sides and sees a dizzying array of numbers — from advocates who contend it would mean billions more dollars in federal aid and would provide insurance coverage to 500,000 to 700,000 uninsured people, to Gov. Tom Corbett, who says state taxpayers can't afford it and could be left holding the bag if federal money dries up.
The numbers “are so disparate you can't reconcile them, even a little bit,” said Treadway, a retired Kutztown University professor.
Democrats in the Legislature are pushing for the expansion, saying it would provide $180 million more for the 2013-14 budget. Corbett administration officials suggest that number is wrong and that long-range predictions are too optimistic.
It's a choice states were given under President Obama's Affordable Care Act. About 26 states have agreed to take the money; 13 states, including Pennsylvania, said no. The remaining 11 lean one way or the other, according to the Advisory Board company, a global research and consulting firm.
The push for Medicaid expansion likely will intensify during the second half of June as lawmakers and the governor attempt to agree on spending priorities within a $28 billion budget.
Senate Democrats are poised to use a parliamentary maneuver to force a vote on expanding Medicaid.
On Monday, Senate Democrats will present their version of a budget, which likely will include Medicaid expansion.
Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills, believes there's a shot at getting three moderate Republicans to side with Democrats and provide 26 votes to force Medicaid expansion.
Three studies, including one by the state's Independent Fiscal Office, show a clear financial gain for the state and more jobs, Costa said.
Expanding Medicaid would create 41,000 jobs, according to a study by Families USA.
Costa contends that the evidence is overwhelming.
Corbett's office says otherwise.
“Aside from covering the mandatory services required by the federal government under the program, Pennsylvania also covers 29 other optional services, such as dental and chiropractic services, hearing aids, eyeglasses, hospice, psychologist and podiatrist services,” said Corbett's spokeswoman, Christine Cronkright. “As more and more options have been layered on top of the program, it's become much more than originally intended — a tailored program for our neediest citizens. We need to ensure we can sustain the program for our neediest citizens now and well into the future.”
With Corbett facing re-election next year, his position on not expanding Medicaid likely will become a campaign issue. Corbett hasn't ruled out agreeing to the expansion if the Department of Health and Human Services grants states more flexibility in administering the program.
Asked about Corbett's argument that federal money could be discontinued, Democrat John Hanger, a potential gubernatorial challenger, said: “We might get hit by a meteor, too.”
A debate over Medicaid expansion within the context of national health care “may be a bit esoteric” to affect the governor's race much, Treadway said. Moreover, neither Obama's health care law nor Medicaid are overwhelmingly popular programs with the public, he said.
Voter positions appear to be hardened along partisan and ideological lines. A poll by Harper Polling this year showed that nearly 67 percent of Republicans oppose expanding Medicaid, and 80 percent of Democrats support it.
“The problem is, I think, that most people don't understand (Medicaid),” said Jerry Shuster, a professor of political communications at the University of Pittsburgh.
But Corbett's popularity is low, and failing to expand Medicaid will be fodder for opponents who could contend his decision “is one more shot at the poor and the elderly,” Shuster said.
Brad Bumsted is state Capitol reporter for the Tribune-Review. He can be reached at 717-787-1405 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
- UMass latest to deal with rowdy St. Paddy’s parties
- Lawmaker: Responders should carry drug that counteracts opiates
- Gettysburg wax museum selling historical figures
- Bill would let local police use radar guns
- Retired Pa. Game Commission chief to get $220K severance payment
- Penn State trustee resigns, regrets Paterno vote
- PennDOT to pay team of companies for bridge repairs under single contract
- Philly, state leaders hopeful for pope visit in 2015
- Allegheny College journalism conference to share story next door
- $1.5M grant will pay for Presque Isle sand
- Family of curlers sets sights on ’18 Olympics