State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

Despite contrarians, governor's team says Medicaid is feds' call, not state lawmakers'

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Sep 18, 2013 11:38 PM

The Corbett administration is trying to put to rest any notion that it needs state lawmakers to approve the governor's Medicaid overhaul plan. Despite some cries to the contrary, his office insists it's waiting on word from Washington, not Harrisburg, to go forward with a plan to change Medicaid and accept federal funding to subsidize private health care options to low-income Pennsylvanians.

Todd Shamash, a deputy chief of staff in the governor's office, said Wednesday that whatever talk there is from lawmakers about proposing legislation to require final word on Medicaid changes isn't getting much of a reaction from the administration.

"We're focused on the importance of this plan, making sure everyone understands that we're proposing a pathway," Shamash said, "to not only improve Medicaid and the vulnerable populations it serves but also provide an avenue to cover the uninsured."

Some have criticized the governor's approach of linking federal approval of Medicaid changes to expansion, saying Corbett doesn't actually need such permission to change a state-managed program.

But Shamash said a federal say-so is required in part because of rules that were put in place when Pennsylvania accepted federal stimulus dollars after the 2008 recession to shore up Medicaid funding.

"As part of that, there were a lot of strings, including pretty tight guardrails on your Medicaid program," Shamash said.

The state Senate Republican leadership supports the plan put forward by the governor, but the caucus also supported an unadulterated expansion. The state House GOP, which rejected a Medicaid expansion months ago, supports the governor's reforms, and says final approval rests with the federal government, but is silent on the potential of expanded health coverage subsidized with federal funding.

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