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Corbett health care proposal entails 700 hires, paper reports

| Monday, May 12, 2014, 9:39 p.m.

HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Corbett's Healthy PA, an alternative to expanding Medicaid, would require the state to hire more than 700 employees, a newspaper reported on Monday.

The figure was far higher than most states have experienced and was a surprise to some experts in public policy, The Philadelphia Inquirer said.

Most of the hires would be caseworkers in offices scattered around the state, said Bev Mackereth, Corbett's public welfare secretary. She said that under Pennsylvania's system, the caseworkers do more than in some other states, including evaluating applicants for eligibility for other benefits.

She said that Pennsylvania trails some other states in automation, which adds to the cost.

“We're getting there, and we're not where other states are,” she said. “Some states have everything automated — it's very easy for them to do.”

The newspaper said the state has estimated about 605,000 people would be newly eligible under Healthy PA. The first-year cost of the 700-plus new hires would be more than $30 million, much of it subsidized by the federal government.

Mackereth said the personnel costs would be more than covered by the estimated Healthy PA savings of $125 million.

The Department of Public Welfare estimates it would require even more new workers — about 1,200 of them — to expand Medicaid under President Obama's landmark health care law.

Corbett, a Republican seeking a second term this year, is waiting to hear back from federal regulators about Healthy PA. It would use Medicaid expansion money to provide private insurance coverage for the same group of people. Those private insurers would be able to operate without some of Medicaid's coverage rules.

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