Tom Wolf made history this week, as the first challenger to defeat an incumbent Pennsylvania Governor seeking a second term. Promising a "fresh start" for Pennsylvania, Wolf picked up 55% of the vote to Corbett's 45.
That means a clear majority of Pennsylvania voters think it's time to put Governor Corbett's policies in the past and move forward in a new direction. On health care, we at the Pennsylvania Health Access Network couldn't agree more.
It's time for a "fresh start" on health care, and we can start by rejecting Corbett's Medicaid expansion plan known as Healthy PA.
Healthy PA, if fully implemented, would cut benefits for more than 1 million Pennsylvanians who rely on Medicaid to live with dignity and independence. Two-thirds of the money we spend on Medicaid today goes to care for seniors and people with disabilities, and while seniors are spared from Healthy PA's cuts, people with disabilities are not. Neither are people battling serious illnesses like cancer, or those with chronic mental health issues. They, along with 1.1 million other Medicaid recipients, will see drastic cuts in benefits on January 1, unless Governor-Elect Wolf steps in to stop it.
A "fresh start" on health care means protecting benefits for all Pennsylvanians and rejecting attempts to put up new barriers to care. We can do this by rejecting Healthy PA and moving forward with a traditional Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. Completing this transition as quickly as possible will spare Pennsylvania from making expensive, harmful and unnecessary changes to Medicaid that will jeopardize the health of our most vulnerable citizens.
We can do this without disrupting the other part of Healthy PA —that is, the expansion of Medicaid coverage through private insurers to Pennsylvanians earning less than 138% of the federal poverty level ($16,105 for a single person) — for which enrollment begins December 1.
Enrollment for Pennsylvanians who are newly eligible for coverage should begin on December 1, as planned, and can continue as we begin the transition from Healthy PA to a traditional expansion. In the meantime, Pennsylvania should immediately stop the benefit cuts that are scheduled to take effect January 1 and ensure that newly eligible Pennsylvanians with health problems can move into traditional Medicaid coverage without going through a burdensome screening process.
As many as 600,000 Pennsylvanians will be eligible for coverage through the expansion of Medicaid in 2015, but many don't know it. There are simple steps that Pennsylvania can take to publicize the fact that the door to coverage is now open. One way to do that is through a targeted outreach campaign, using the model that worked for the Cover all Kids program. Another is to automatically enroll individuals who are already known to the Department of Public Welfare, which administers Medicaid, to be at or below 138% of the federal poverty line and who are uninsured and are receiving other state benefit programs.
We at the Pennsylvania Health Access Network look forward to working with Governor- elect Wolf to help build a truly healthier Pennsylvania.
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