State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
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Corbett health care plan made public months after initial announcement

Written by Mary Wilson, Former Capitol Bureau Chief | Dec 6, 2013 5:22 PM

Gov. Corbett's alternative proposal to expanding Medicaid in Pennsylvania has been released online to the public, a move that brings the plan one step closer to getting a formal review.

The administration can now begin series of public hearings necessary before its plan is submitted for federal approval.

In September, Corbett announced his intention to make his acceptance of federal funding for health coverage for the poor conditional on a proposal that the federal money be used to subsidize private health insurance plans for the poor.

But the most contentious part of Corbett's plan is the requirement that the health care recipients (as many as 500,000 people) be engaged in a job search through a state website,

No other state has tried this, but state Department of Public Welfare Secretary Bev Mackereth said federal officials have signaled they're open to considering it.

"They have not said no," Mackereth said.

She added that the requirement isn't meant to force people to go through the motions, nor does the state website presume participants have any job training.

"If you don't have a skill set - if you don't know your skills set is and you've never worked - what it will do is, for instance, there's a link there to get a Careerlink counselor who will help walk you through it," Mackereth said.

The work search requirement is for anyone who's unemployed or working less than 20 hours a week.

Kait Gillis, a DPW spokeswoman, said recipients of the federally-subsidized private health coverage would need to participate in an average of 12 work search-related activities per month on the state website. Participation would be checked every six months. If the website were to show insufficient activity, a participant's health coverage would be terminated for three months before he or she could reapply.

The administration expects to submit its plan for federal approval after public hearings wrap up in mid-January. The federal Department of Health and Human Services will have 30 days to review it.

The agency approved a plan from Arkansas that would also use federal money to subsidize private health insurance for low-income participants. But Mackereth has said the commonwealth's health system doesn't remotely resemble the one in Arkansas.

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