Medicaid Expansion Stalls in Budget Talks

Vincent Hughes 2013
Sen. Vincent Hughes

Republican State Senators don’t want to move ahead of Gov. Tom Corbett on the question of expanding Medicaid.

Senator Vincent Hughes (D-Phila), Minority Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee was stymied by his counterpart in the Majority, Jake Corman (R-Centre).

A procedural move by Republicans prevented Hughes from introducing a Medicaid expansion provision on another bill in the committee.

“The time for discussion and debate has passed. The Senate needs to go on record supporting expansion and pressure Gov. Tom Corbett to do the right thing,” said Hughes.

Corman promptly moved to table the bill saying the decision to expand Medicaid is ultimately up to the Governor. In February, Corman held out the possibility that Senate Republicans would move on the issue independently of Corbett.

Republicans and Democrats are split mostly along party lines on the possible expansion of Medicaid offered by the federal government under the Affordable Care Act. As of May 26 states have expanded their programs but 19 have declined or are leaning towards saying no.

Corbett has refrained from moving forward on expansion, but has left the door open.

In the House, Rep. Dan Frankel (D-Allegheny) during the budget’s consideration tried to introduce an amendment to the it from the floor to account for Medicaid expansion.

“Republicans have indicated they believe the amendment violates Rule 19 (b), which requires that amendments be revenue-neutral when it comes to state funds. Because the amendment is revenue-neutral for state funds, Democrats don’t believe the Republican argument holds up,” said House Democratic spokesman Bill Patton.

Nonetheless the attempt failed in a 108-91 vote with one Democrat, Rep. Gerald Mullery (D-Luzerne), siding with Republicans.

John Bouder of the conservative think tank Commonwealth Foundation expressed his support for the pushback against the Democrats’ efforts.

“Medicaid expansion should be abandoned because it would dump more of the poor into a system that’s already failing them,” he said in a statement, highlighting his group’s standing objection to expansion. “Moreover, the claims of ‘free federal money’ fail to acknowledge the real cost of this program—the expansion alone is estimated to cost Pennsylvania $4 billion.”

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