Democratic state senators are following through with promises to urge Gov. Tom Wolf to repeal the Corbett Administration–era Healthy PA plan and fully embrace federally–funded Medicaid expansion in accordance with the Affordable Care Act.
State Sen. Shirley Kitchen and the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Caucus recently sent a letter to Wolf, prompting him to move expeditiously in dismantling former Gov. Tom Corbett’s plan.
“As elected officials, our constituents tell us every day about the problems they have with Healthy PA,” Kitchen’s letter stated. “Under Healthy PA, they face unnecessary obstacles, unacceptable delays, and, in some cases, wrongful denials of coverage. This has created panic, frustration and hardship for low-income Pennsylvanians, which discourages them from applying and puts them at risk of enduring another year uninsured.”
Kitchen contends Corbett’s plan “is jeopardizing Pennsylvanians who need health care insurance” because the Corbett administration’s program is packed with inconsistencies and inadequate provisions.
Kitchen serves as the Democratic chair of the Senate public health and welfare committee.
Corbett marketed Healthy PA as the state’s answer to growing pressure to accept Medicaid expansion palatable with the ACA. But instead of easily providing health care for thousands of heretofore uninsured Pennsylvanians, Healthy PA actually caused many individuals and families to lose their coverage — and many others were forced into a tired system which negatively effected their prescriptions and overall coverage.
The letter also sharply pointed out Healthy PA’s others shortcomings, including failing to correctly apply Federal income guidelines that set eligibility for Medicaid in expansion states at 138 percent of the poverty level; that applicants for Healthy PA are “routinely being asked not only to list all of their assets on the state’s COMPASS application,” but also to submit proof of assets — everything from Kelly Blue Book car values to bank statements to life insurance policies; failing to clearly inform applicants about eligibility rules and failing to process applications within the 30-day period mandated by commonwealth law.
“Additionally, we have concerns that potential benefit cuts to traditional Medicaid under Healthy PA puts people with disabilities, low income parents, and pregnant woman in jeopardy,” the leader read. “[And that] the new health screening form is an invasive barrier to care, asking applicants private details about their medical history and potentially assigning them the wrong level of benefits.
“[with Healthy PA] Pennsylvanians with mental or behavioral health issues have limited access to care under the new benefit structure…the harm created by Healthy PA alarms us. We believe our constituents deserve a simpler, easier system,” the letter said.
Getting legislation to the repeal Healthy PA through the Republican-controlled General Assembly may take herculean efforts, although having a Democratic governor may help.
Also helpful is that several Republican state Senators and State Representatives have warmed up to the idea of accepting ACA-mandated Medicaid expansion.
State Sen. Vincent Hughes has also fought a year’s–long battle with the General Assembly to have the Commonwealth accept expansion as envisioned as part of the care act and said recently the difference between what Corbett has done and the Democrats’ plan is stark.
“Remember, the plan that the Senate Democrats have offered, which I like to call ‘Health Care For All,’ would cover over 500,000 low income PA residents who are mostly working minimum wage jobs,” Hughes said when the idea for Healthy PA was first floated. “It would take effect almost immediately and offer a full range of services in a very efficient and cost effective way. [Corbett’s] plan, by his own admission, would take over a year before it could be implemented. It would also have less coverage and be more expensive.”
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