Pennsylvania Will See Full Medicaid Expansion Plan

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Pennsylvania Will See Full Medicaid Expansion Plan

Nina Liss-Schultz

Making good on a campaign promise, Pennsylvania Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf on Monday announced the state will expand Medicaid to the full extent under the Affordable Care Act.

Making good on a campaign promise, Pennsylvania Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf on Monday announced the state will expand Medicaid to the full extent under the Affordable Care Act.

Wolf will ask the federal government to halt the implementation of his predecessor Republican Tom Corbett’s beleaguered Medicaid expansion plan, which took effect at the start of the year. The program faced charges of undisclosed spending, and drew the scrutiny of the state’s auditor general in 2014. Corbett’s Healthy PA program originally included a requirement that unemployed people prove they are actively seeking work before accessing Medicaid.

“Today is the first step toward simplifying a complicated process and ensuring hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians have greater access to the health insurance they need,” Wolf said in a statement.

Corbett, like many Republican governors, had long fought against Medicaid expansion and the ACA, in 2010 filing a lawsuit challenging the health-care reform law.

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But after a year of negotiations with the federal government, Corbett approved Healthy PA, a reform plan that cut benefits to Pennsylvanians already enrolled in Medicaid and used federal dollars to subsidize uninsured low-income residents’ purchase of privatized insurance plans. Among Healthy PA’s reforms was a reduction in the number of available Medicaid plans from 14 to two.

Wolf called Healthy PA complicated and confusing, and said full expansion of Medicaid will “remove unnecessary red tape, and streamline the system so that people can see a doctor when they are sick and health care professionals have more time to concentrate on providing quality care.”

Corbett moved forward with Healthy PA after Wolf was elected in November, and low-income Pennsylvanians started enrolling January 1. Wolf assured those with Healthy PA coverage that their plans would be unaffected for the time being, and that his administration would transition them to the new program with no gaps in coverage.

“We are committed to ensuring an orderly and efficient transition for every Pennsylvanian receiving health care coverage through the commonwealth,” Ted Dallas, acting secretary for Pennsylvania’s Department of Health Services, said in a statement.

Pennsylvania is one of 29 states that have adopted Medicaid expansion. Corbett’s willingness to expand Medicaid, even in a half measure, made him one of a number of Republican governors that opted to expand despite vocal and long-held opposition to the ACA.