This story was updated at 3:39 p.m.
(Harrisburg) -- Governor Corbett is seeking federal approval of his plan to bring billions of federal Medicaid expansion dollars to Pennsylvania to extend health insurance to half-a-million working poor.
The Corbett administration said the plan was submitted today to the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
“As we developed this plan, we traveled the commonwealth, listening to what people really needed from their health care coverage. The plan that Governor Corbett is proposing is a strong reflection of the over 1,000 comments received,” says state Department of Public Welfare Secretary Beverly Mackereth.
It issued a draft plan in December, but Mackereth says the administration is backing off elements to require enrollees to search for work and pay premiums instead of co-pays in the first year.
“Healthy Pennsylvania is vital to providing a much needed safety net for the people that need it most. However, we want to make sure Medicaid remains a transitional benefit,” Corbett said in a statement. “We are working towards a health care delivery model that best meets the needs of all Pennsylvanians, and this plan is a step in that direction. Pennsylvania is seeking approval on an expedited basis so we can move forward.”
Corbett, a Republican, refuses to use the money to expand Medicaid, which he calls inefficient.
Rather, he wants to use the Medicaid expansion money to subsidize private health insurance for newly eligible adults.
Meanwhile, the governor has been criticized for not moving sooner to draw down federal Medicaid expansion dollars when they became available January first.
The Pennsylvania Medical Society issued a statement from its president, Doctor Bruce MacLeod:
"Since Governor Corbett announced his Healthy PA initiative last fall, the Pennsylvania Medical Society has been encouraged by many aspects of the plan. One aspect of the plan that has gained significant attention and debate across the state deals with how best to insure more low-income, non-elderly Pennsylvanians and their families.
Today, Pennsylvania formally submitted its Healthy PA Medicaid 1115 waiver application to the federal government. After reviewing changes based upon feedback provided at public hearings and through the formal comment period, the Pennsylvania Medical Society is supportive of the Governor’s plan.
The Pennsylvania Medical Society was part of the comment process that shared suggestions to improve and clarify the Governor’s initial plan. Our organization continues to be engaged in discussions on the plan and we look forward to providing physician perspectives on how the waiver will improve the health of Pennsylvanians. Some of the changes that are encouraging are improved benefits including increased laboratory services, outpatient mental health treatments, radiology tests, and durable medical equipment and medical supply limits. Cost sharing adjustments should also make the program more affordable to eligible Pennsylvanians.
While the plan still needs federal approval, and will go through a federal comment period, the Pennsylvania Medical Society views this application as a positive step and encourages CMS to act as quickly as possible so that more Pennsylvanians can enjoy the benefits of having health insurance."
The Pennsylvania Health Access Network's director, Antoinette Kraus, issued a statement:
“We are glad to see the Corbett Administration's new Healthy PA waiver recognize health centers as a critical provider in Pennsylvania. Many of the provisions that were most troubling to health advocates. It is reassuring to know Pennsylvania is finally taking the next step on the path to securing coverage for hundreds of thousands of working families. However, Healthy PA still includes unnecessary, dangerous cuts that will hurt seniors, people with disabilities, and pregnant women who currently rely on Medicaid coverage.
Healthy PA will not only cut services our seniors and other vulnerable Pennsylvanians depend on, it also comes at a greater costs to taxpayers than accepting the Medicaid expansion opportunity offered by health care reform.
While states all around us are taking advantage of the federal Medicaid dollars available to them to increase access to health care, Pennsylvania continues to advance this complicated and complex plan that delays health care access for a year to over 500,000 working moms and dads, veterans, and others.
Governor Corbett’s proposal not only jeopardizes their health but also leaves millions of dollars in budget savings and revenue on the table this year. Accepting federal Medicaid dollars right away will not only help protect hundreds of thousands of low-income Pennsylvanians, it will also generate $522 million in state budget savings in 2014 and keep us on track to create 35,000 new, good-paying jobs across the Commonwealth."
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