AMONG the more egregious shortcomings of your Legislature - a bloated body known for greed, avarice and inaction - are its disregard for the people it's supposed to serve and its high regard for serving itself.

An example is the shameful silence of its so-called leaders on the issue of health insurance for lower-income working Pennsylvanians.

A state program called adultBasic, which provides low-cost, minimal health-care coverage to 41,424 folks (5,999 in Philly), is set to expire Feb. 28 because it has run out of money.

The Corbett administration blames the Rendell administration, which blamed the Legislature, which sits by inertly while affected citizens watch the clock.

I'm guessing that those facing a loss of coverage care less about who's at fault and more about what happens next.

Sadly, the answer appears to be nothing. And that is unconscionable.

It's unconscionable because the state's 253 lawmakers have better health-care coverage than most of their constituents, far better than those in adultBasic.

It's unconscionable because lawmakers pay less of a percentage of their taxpayer-funded salaries for coverage than everybody else pays. A lot less.

Private-sector Pennsylvanians pay about 10 percent of their salaries for health-care coverage. Senators pay 1 percent. House members pay nothing, but are to start paying 1 percent in July.

And it's unconscionable because lawmakers have a slush fund tucked in their overly generous operating budget that could pay for adultBasic through April 2012.

To his credit, Philly state Democratic Sen. Mike Stack this week introduced legislation to spend that fund - euphemistically called legislative "reserves," currently totaling $188.5 million - to keep adultBasic alive.

"It's a very common-sense solution," Stack tells me, "It's offensive to hold on to that money."

It is indeed.

Stack's Northeast Philly district has the state's second-highest number of adultBasic users (a district in Somerset County south of Johnstown is first).

But Stack's a Democrat. His eight co-sponsors are Democrats. And Republicans control the Legislature, where, as I've often noted, good ideas go to die.

Legislative leaders' say that issues surrounding adultBasic and "reserve" funds should be dealt with during the state budget process later this year. The governor's office says the same.

I say they're all wrong.

This is not some budget-busting, giveaway entitlement program. Since 2001 it has offered adults aged 19 to 65 the chance to buy basic coverage for $36 a month with co-pays for doctor and ER visits.

There are income-eligibility limits. A family of four, for example, qualifies if the family income is $44,100 or less. As you might guess, there's a huge waiting list - about to increase by 41,424.

The Corbett administration suggests that those losing $36- a-month coverage can switch to coverage called SpecialCare from Blue Cross and Blue Shield for about $140 a month.

I wonder how many lower-income families have an extra $100 at the ready each month. I also wonder why the Blues, with "reserve" funds of their own, reportedly totaling nearly $6 billion, can spend money on TV and billboard advertising and not offer more reasonable coverage for those in need.

The governor has an opportunity here. He can show leadership and broker a compromise between the Blues and lawmakers, find other funding avenues or press hard for enactment of Stack's legislation.

The Legislature has an opportunity here. It can fund basic care now or stick taxpayers with inevitably higher costs in the future resulting from lack of basic care. And it can provide already-struggling citizens with just a piece of the protection that all of its members already enjoy.

To ignore these opportunities sends signals that the new governor is more interested in placing blame than finding solutions, and that the Legislature remains more interested in serving itself than in serving the public good.

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