House Democrats renewed their calls Monday for Gov. Tom Corbett (R) to sign off on a major expansion of Medicaid in Pennsylvania, citing the potential for job growth and insuring hundreds of thousands more people.
Corbett has been reluctant to agree to the plan, saying he’s concerned about long-term costs and the ability to tailor the program to the needs of Pennsylvania.
“I don’t understand why he would pass on the 100 percent guaranteed money for the next three years. That part of it just makes no sense,” said Rep. Mike Sturla (D-96th District) and chair of the House Democratic Policy Committee.
Sturla estimated about half a million people in Pennsylvania would gain access to Medicaid through the proposed expansion.
As part of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on the Affordable Care Act, each state has to decide whether to take part. So far, 24 states and Washington, D.C., have chosen to expand Medicaid.
Under the plan, the federal government manages 100 percent of the cost for the first three years. After that, it drops to 90 percent.
“We recognize that the federal government will be there in the early going, but then that support starts to phase out. And, given the history of the state relationship to the federal, we can’t always rely on federal dollars to be there,” said Rep. Gordon Denlinger (R-99th District). He was among seven Republican House members who sent a letter to Corbett last week encouraging him to stick with his decision not to expand Medicaid.
Republican governors in states including Arizona, Ohio and Florida have been drawing attention for their support of the Medicaid expansion after attacking the Affordable Care Act for several years.
Corbett is planning a meeting with U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, aimed at answering his concerns. That meeting has not been scheduled.
Christine Cronkright, a spokeswoman for the governor said in an email, “Many of the concerns posed to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services remain. For example, how can we better align benefits to the needs of Pennsylvanians, and how can we create a system that is sustainable in Pennsylvania, where we have a different Medicaid system than many other states?”
Rep. Sturla said the expansion could result in 40,000 new jobs and an investment of $37 billion in the commonwealth. He also said if Gov. Corbett finds after a few years of implement the expansion that it does not work financially, he could then opt out.
“And, if that’s what the governor’s worried about, the day that the feds say everybody needs some form of (health) insurance or another, those people are going to come out and sign up. And then, we’ll have to pay for them anyway,” said Sturla.
Democrats have drafted a bill to be considered in the House.