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Gov. moving forward with “Healthy Pennsylvania” plan despite opposition

Gov. Tom Corbett (R) is moving forward with his “Healthy Pennsylvania” plan, which is aimed at improving health care access for hundreds of thousands of people while instituting various reforms.

During a press conference Tuesday, the Pennsylvania Medical Society endorsed some provisions of the plan but wouldn’t go as far as to say whether it will work better than part of the Affordable Care Act that expands state Medicaid programs.

Dr. Bruce MacLeod said, “I don’t think there’s clear evidence as to which way works. I think we have the opportunity across this country to experiment about which way’s best, and then look at it in a year or two years. Who gets the most enrollees? What are the outcomes? Are the patients healthier?”

The U.S. Supreme Court left it up to states to decide whether to expand Medicaid. Under the healthcare reform law, the federal government would pay the full cost of the expansion the first three years, then dropping to 90 percent.

In Pennsylvania, the expansion would add about 500,000 people to the Medicaid program.

“If we simply expanded, we’d be moving from one in six Pennsylvanians on Medicaid to one in four Pennsylvanians on Medicaid. And, there’s a significant question around the long-term sustainability at that point in time,” said Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Michael Wolf.

The Corbett administration has been in talks with the federal government for months and has submitted its plan. There will be a series of public hearings in January, including one in Harrisburg on Jan. 9 at the State Museum from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

When asked,  Wolf wouldn’t comment on the administration’s level of optimism about whether the federal government would accept Corbett’s plan.

The governor wants to use the money to allow people who would qualify under the Medicaid expansion to buy private insurance on the federal health exchanges instead. One provision drawing criticism is a job training and work search requirement that other states which have sought waivers from the federal government did not seek.

“The job-search requirement aims to solve a problem that doesn’t exist and creates an unnecessary administrative burden and cost to the state. Census data tells us the overwhelming majority of those who would qualify for expanded coverage are already working,” said Antoinette Kraus, director of the Pennsylvania Health Access Network, in a statement.

Rep. Mike Sturla (D-96th) advocated for the administration to expand the Medicaid program as outlined in the Affordable Care Act.

“We see (the Healthy Pennsylvania plan) pretty much as a delay tactic, and we don’t think it’s going to be accepted. And then, he’ll  have to go back and re-draft another plan,” said Sturla. “We could be having healthcare for half a million Pennsylvanians if the governor just said, let’s go ahead and start this plan. I’ll work on making changes to it later. And, the federal government would be paying 100 percent of the cost of that expansion.”

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