Gov. Tom Wolf kept a major campaign promise this week and has started the process of repealing Healthy PA and instead accepting federally–funded Medicaid expansion in accordance with the Affordable Care Act.
Healthy PA was former Gov. Tom Corbett’s healthcare reform plan, one in which many critics derided for causing clients to lose coverage and for installing certain asset checks and other obstacles.
Wold said the state will now transition to a simpler Medicaid expansion plan, and labeled the efforts as “the first step toward” simplifying a complicated process.
“Our approach will alleviate confusion, remove unnecessary red tape, and streamline the system,” Wolf said,” so that people can see a doctor when they are sick and health care professionals will have more time to concentrate on providing quality care.”
Part of that first step was the Wolf request to the Department of Human Services to withdraw the portion of Corbett’s package known as the “Healthy” option.
Human services acting secretary Ted Dallas said the department was committed to ensuring an “orderly and efficient” transition for every Pennsylvanian who receives coverage through the state.
“We are already at work making changed to our eligibility systems that will take effect this spring,” Dallas said. “This will enable us to transition individuals participating in the General Assistance and SelectPlan programs to the new health plan.”
Aside from those Pennsylvanians who already qualify for overage, Wolf’s plan will allow residents age 19 to 64 who earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level to obtain coverage, once the transition is complete. The expansion will also allow eligible adults to be placed into a more streamlined package, one in which the Wolf Administration says will increase contonuity of care while reducing unnecessary and redundant processes.
Regarding the fate of Healthy PA, the Wolf Administration said it is now working with the federal government to develop a single benefit package for adults, and once complete, adults enrolled in the Healthy and Healthy Plus plans will then be transitioned to the new, single package.
The federal government will pay for 100 percent of the costs of Medicaid expansion through 2016, then will fund it at 95 percent in 2017, 94 percent in 2018, 93 percent in 2019 and 90 percent in 2020 and all years thereafter.
Those already enrolled in either the Healthy or Healthy Plus plans are advised to do nothing now, as human services department will contact those clients when their transition nears; for those who are not yet covered, they can obtain health insurance through the state at www.compass.state.pa.us.
Administrations officials said that transition should be complete by the end of the year.
The Pennsylvania Medical Society voiced support of Wolf’s plan.
“We are encouraged by its potential to positively impact Pennsylvania’s patients and the care they receive,” said Pennsylvania Medical Society President Dr. Karen Rizzo. “As part of our eight principles of health system reform, the Pennsylvania Medical Society has long supported the principle that health care coverage should be available and affordable to all Pennsylvanians, and that it should reduce administrative costs and improve efficiency.
“While most of the attention from the recent announcement certainly will focus on the elimination of Healthy PA and the politics involved, let’s not forget what ultimately counts the most — patients getting the care they need.”
Expectedly, the Pennsylvania Republican Committee was unimpressed by Wolf’s plan, while Democratic officials within the General Assembly hailed the move.
PA GOP spokeswoman Megan Sweeney blasted wolf’s decision, said Wolf has been “vocal in his support for Obamacare as a step on the road to a complete government takeover of our health care system,” and instead of focusing on improving the lives of Pennsylvania families, Wolf is imposing a “disastrous, fa–-left agenda” item on the state.
“If Gov. Wolf was serious about improving our health care system, he wouldn't have chosen to bring one of the key architects of Maryland’s Obamacare disastrous rollout to Pennsylvania,” Sweeney said. “Gov. Wolf’s choice for Health and Human Services Secretary, Ted Dallas, botched Maryland’s Obamacare efforts in one of the worst government fiascoes in the state’s history, so why is Governor Wolf trying to reward his disastrous efforts with a Cabinet position? Gov. Wolf needs to stop serving liberal special interests and start serving the needs of Pennsylvanians.”
State Sen. Vincent Hughes, who has wages a years'–long battle with the assembly over accepting ACA-backed Medicaid expansion, disagreed with Sweeney’s assesment, saying Wolf’s action instead instantly reverses the harm caused by Healthy PA.
“Instead of simply accepting more than $4 billion in federal funds to offer more than 500,000 people health insurance in our proven Health Choices system, the former administration chose to create a complicated web of obstacles creating barriers for Pennsylvanians in need of critical health services,” said Hughes, D–7th. “This is simply not fair and clean, straightforward Medicaid expansion fixes this injustice.
“We also know that this decision makes fiscal sense for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” Hughes added. “Operating a complicated, layered system chips away at the estimated $400 million in annual savings Medicaid Expansion brings for the state budget. These savings are desperately needed given the structural deficit grown over the past four years.”
Democratic State Sens. Joy Costa and Shirley Kitchen have backed Wolf’s plan, as did State Reps. Michelle Brownlee, Madeleine Dean, Pamela DeLissio, Stephen Kinsey, Steve McCarter and Philadelphia House Delegation Chair Cherelle Parker all backed Wolf’s proposal.
Also backing Wolf’s proposal is Sen. Bob Brady, who hailed Wolf for taking a “commonsense step to help hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians more easily access” healthcare coverage.