Governor Tom Corbett released his own statewide healthcare initiative today at the PinnacleHealth Harrisburg Hospital. Under his “Healthy PA” plan, the state would accept public dollars to finance private insurance for 500,000 Pennsylvanians.
“Washington can not and should not tell citizens want they can buy,” Governor Corbett said. “We should not have a one-sized fits all solution from Washington. I believe we must build a plan from the grassroots up growing the private healthcare market while reducing government intervention.”
The plan is similar to proposals in Arkansas and Iowa. Unlike the those plans, however, Corbett’s proposal would add a requirement that beneficiaries be actively seeking employment.
The issue concerns the Medicaid expansion that was included in the Affordable Care Act. Under the law Medicaid, the federal healthcare program for low-income Americans, would be expanded to everyone earning 138 percent of the federal poverty level. In the Supreme Court decision which upheld Obamacare, however, the Court ruled that states could decide whether to accept these funds.
Since that time, Gov. Corbett has been faced with the issue of whether to accept the funds. For the first three years, the federal government will cover all the costs of the expansion. After that the share will gradually decline but will stop at 90%. Corbett, however, is still fearful of costs.
“We can not afford to expand the current Medicaid program,” he stated. “It’s not sustainable to increase the number of Pennsylvanians who rely on this entitlement.”
There was a clear political aspect to the Governor’s proposal. The announcement comes mere months after he said he was unlikely to accept federal funds from Obamacare. Additionally he was careful to avoid the word “expansion,” something anathema to conservative activists, when describing his plan.
But Monday’s proposal did not ameliorate Corbett’s Democratic critics, who characterized it as too little, too late.
Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz has long blasted Corbett for rejecting the funds. Her campaign has already released a statement aiming to refute the Governor’s claims and scheduled a conference call with reporters later today to respond to the Governor’s proposal.
Other prospective Corbett opponents including former DEP Sec. John Hanger and former Revenue Sec. Tom Wolf also criticized Corbett’s proposal.
“Today’s announcement is another Harrisburg game from Governor Corbett that puts political posturing over people and raises more questions than it answers, Tom Wolf stated. “How is giving private insurance companies a cut of the money and providing fewer benefits to working families at the same cost to the taxpayers a better deal for Pennsylvania? That doesn’t seem to add up.
Meanwhile healthcare advocates praised the move as a positive step.
“It is good to see Governor Corbett acknowledge the reality that a majority of Pennsylvanians already understand: Medicaid Expansion is vital to the health of Pennsylvania families, and to our economy,” said Antoinette Kraus, the Director of the Pennsylvania Health Access Network.
Corbett is nonetheless also being hit from the right on his decision. Tomorrow, for instance, State Reps. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) and Rob Kauffman (R-Franklin) plan to hold a press conference in the Capitol with Arkansas lawmakers to denounce each governor’s plan.
The proposal would not require legislative approval.
Given all this, the “Healthy PA” plan could more accurately be described as part of the Governor’s campaign platform than an initiative likely to be adopted. It is very likely to be one of the most contentious issues of the next fourteen months.
It’s at best unclear and at worst unlikely that the Obama Administration will accept Corbett’s plan, as it would undermine the heart of the healthcare law. Arkansas and Iowa have attempted similar ideas and have not yet received federal approval.
Additionally, opponents of Obamacare have argued that the privatization model is even worse because it will cost more, undercutting Corbett’s concerns about cost.