On August 28th the federal and state governments reached agreement on a plan to expand Medicaid coverage to 600,000 Pennsylvanians. Expansion of Medicaid is a core component of the Affordable Care Act, and as of January 1, 2015, Pennsylvania will join the majority of states in accepting federal funds to enroll previously uninsured Americans.
The Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare (DPW) proposed the “Healthy Pennsylvania” program in late 2013. The Law Center opposed the original plan, which would have made dramatic cuts to the existing Medicaid program and which would have entangled applicants in needless red tape. We are very pleased the federal government forced DPW to remove the worst aspects of the plan, including a first-in-the-nation “work search” requirement for Medicaid recipients.
The approved plan still falls short of full Medicaid expansion: for example, it will impose premiums on many low-income families, forcing them to choose between seeing a doctor and paying fundamental costs, such as rent. Certain components of the plan remain unresolved, and the Law Center will continue to work to ensure that the full plan provides as much access as possible to healthcare.
Pennsylvania could have accepted Medicaid expansion a year earlier, and the state’s delay has excluded hundreds of thousands of people from health coverage and cost the state billions of dollars in revenue. Nonetheless, later beats never, and we are pleased that health coverage is coming to many of Pennsylvania’s working families.