For the last three years, state Senate Democrats have pushed for the state to accept federally–funded Medicaid expansion — a maneuver, state Sen. Vincent Hughes said would save the state nearly $400 million while providing coverage for up to 500,000 uninsured Pennsylvanians.
Hughes trumpeted that point again on Thursday during a news conference at Philadelphia City Hall. His remarks preceded the inauguration of Democrat Tom Wolf next week as the state’s next governor.
“For years, we have advocated for Medicaid expansion in Pennsylvania to provide health care coverage for [more than] 500,000 citizens, and hundreds of million is state budget savings,” Hughes said. “Gov. [Tom] Corbett had a choice to expand eligibility for these individuals too poor to benefit from the health exchanges, yet not poor enough for traditional Medicaid, and serve themselves seamlessly through [longtime state heath plan] Health Choices.
“Instead, Gov. Corbett chose to complicate the existing program and create a new system … leading to unnecessary layers of bureaucracy, confusion and ultimately harm for some of our most vulnerable citizens.”
Corbett, a Republican, instituted the Healthy PA plan, a hybrid healthcare provision system Hughes and the stakeholders said is causing harm — not only to the people trying to sign up for coverage, but for the hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians who were once enrolled in a healthcare plan but have since been dropped due to parameters included in Healthy PA.
“At the state level, we have been struggling mightily to get the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act [expansion of Medicaid] in place,” Hughes said. “We are gathered to raise the continued concern and alarm about what is really happening, and inform folks on what is really happening, as we make the transition in Harrisburg from one governor to another governor.
“Wolf has said during the course of his campaign, without any hesitation, that he wants to have implemented in Pennsylvania a full Medicaid expansion program, which would save the state about $400 million — which is extremely important, now that we are facing a $2.2 billion deficit.”
The problem with Corbett’s plan is two–fold, Hughes and the stakeholders said. On the one hand, they claim the Corbett administration has made it necessarily difficult for new healthcare seekers to find information and sign up, and on the other, Healthy PA has led to thousands of individuals — 20,000 in Philadelphia alone — being dropped from their coverage.
This is a lose–lose scenario, said Gaudenzia, Inc. president and CEO Michael Harle.
“Rather than do something great, [the state] created a problem,” Harle said. “In Philadelphia, there are 20,000 people that are not assigned to a behavioral health company for services. That’s significant, and if you do the math across the entire state, it is probably more like 30,000–40,000.
“We were promised by the Corbett administration that there would be no disruption in care, that people who are seriously mentally ill or have substance abuse problems ... they would just become enrolled in what is called ‘Healthy PA Plus’ … immediately we started realizing that wasn’t the case,” Harle added. “People became unassigned, we started getting all kinds of bad information. The bottom line is the system does not work.”