Medicaid expansion takes effect, but state trying to enroll more people

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | Sep 3, 2015 4:37 AM

(Harrisburg) -- One of Governor Tom Wolf's first decisions is just starting to take effect.

The state says about 440,000 people are getting Medicaid coverage.

In some cases, they'll be able to see a doctor regularly for the first time in their lives.

Medicaid expansion comes with fears though - added stress on the state budget, even longer waits to see a medical professional, and more pressure on the entire health care system.

State Secretary of Human Services Ted Dallas says everyone is stepping up.

"So far, our networks have been able to handle the folks that have come on board," says Dallas. "As in any state, there are parts where access is a little tougher. Those are generally more rural parts of the state. But overall, the majority of folks that are in that pent-up demand you're talking about, are being handled through the network that's in place."

Dallas says his agency is still trying to enroll more people; it hopes to reach 605,000.

He says it's getting help from the faith community, and is also checking with other state programs to see if enrollees would also be eligible for Medicaid.

"They're really all across the state. There's some in the center part of the state, there's some in the Philadelphia area where it's a little higher, but it really is all across the state. These are sort of the folks that are the hard-to-reach folks, the ones that have been, that for one reason or another haven't seen the marketing efforts before."

The transition means former Governor Tom Corbett's Healthy Pennsylvania plan no longer exists.

The federal government is fully covering the cost of Medicaid expansion through 2016.

Starting in 2017, the federal government share falls to 95%, and then drops one percentage point in both 2018 and 2019.

For 2020 and beyond, it settles at 90%.

Nearly 2.6 million people receive Medicaid coverage in Pennsylvania.

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