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Corbett promises to limit health care law's 'negative impact on Pennsylvanians'

| Thursday, June 28, 2012, 3:14 p.m.

HARRISBURG — Republican Gov. Tom Corbett expressed his disappointment in the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Thursday upholding the federal health care law but pledged to “limit the law's negative impact on Pennsylvanians.”

Corbett, who as attorney general challenged the law, read a statement and declined to answer questions, saying there had been little time to absorb the 193-page decision. He said he would comply with the ruling out of respect for “the law and the process of the law.”

“Despite the president's repeated assertions that this was not a tax, the Supreme Court today ruled that it is in fact a tax,” Corbett said.

House Minority Leader Frank Dermody, D-Oakmont, said the ruling “provides certainty going forward for patients, small businesses, doctors and the health care providers that are some of Pennsylvania's largest employers.”

The chairman of a state House panel overseeing health care said the “silver lining” in the ruling is language that lets states opt out of costly Medicaid expansion without being punished. It also lets states opt out of abortion funding, said Rep. Matthew Baker, R-Tioga County, an abortion opponent.

“I personally don't think the commonwealth of Pennsylvania can sustain that spending,” he said.

Baker said Pennsylvania should decline the Medicaid expansion because it would cost from $800 million to $1.2 billion in the next few years.

Rep. Joe Markosek, D-Monroeville, said the costs of expanding Medicaid will be offset under the law through prescription drug discounts, reduced costs for the Children's Health Insurance Program and lower costs in the state's low-cost prescription drug program for low-income seniors.

It is unclear whether an opt-out could be done by the Legislature or by executive order of the governor. Kevin Harley, Corbett's spokesman, said the governor is still studying language on the Medicaid opt-out and how it could be done.

“Like the governor, we are reviewing the decision in great detail to determine our options going forward,” said Erik Arneson, spokesman for Senate Republicans. The ruling does not require immediate action by the Legislature, he said.

Planned Parenthood said the law will provide access to birth control and cancer screenings without co-payments, guarantee direct access to obstetrics/gynecology providers without referrals and end discriminatory practices against women.

“This decision will have a profound and concrete impact on millions of people's lives, said Sari Stevens, executive director of Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates.

Brad Bumsted is state Capitol reporter for the Tribune-Review. He can be reached at 717-787-1405 and bbumsted@tribweb.com. Michael Macagnone is an intern for the Pennsylvania Legislative Correspondents Association. He can be reached at m.a.macagnone@gmail.com.

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