HARRISBURG - The state Department of Public Welfare chief said Monday that her agency was prepared for an onslaught when enrollment for "Healthy PA," Pennsylvania's Medicaid expansion alternative, begins in less than two weeks.

The website dedicated to enrolling hundreds of thousands of uninsured low-income Pennsylvanians under the Affordable Care Act is seeing a spike in users following the launch of a $2 million statewide ad blitz.

The state anticipates that about 600,000 people - many of them the working poor - are eligible to get coverage beginning Jan. 1 under the Corbett administration's proposal, which uses Medicaid funding to pay private insurers.

Rolled into the overhauled Medicaid system will be the 2.2 million existing Medicaid recipients, who will be designated under "low and high" risk coverage depending on their health.

The marketing campaign being rolled out this week features TV, radio, print, and digital ads as well as bus stop posters.

It will target those likely to qualify, many of them single African American and Hispanic men in urban areas as well as white adults in rural areas with high rates of uninsured.

Enrollees will choose from plans offered by four or more providers in each of the nine regions across the state.

The insurance companies, among them Aetna, Gateway Health Partners, and United Health Care in the southeast, have signed three-year contracts with the state to provide coverage.

The insurance providers have spent $11 million getting their systems prepared for the flood of enrollees, said state officials.

Yet to be resolved is how Gov.-elect Tom Wolf - a Democrat who has said he wants to shift to outright Medicaid expansion - will respond when he takes office Jan. 20. He has urged Corbett to stop moving forward on Healthy PA, a spokesman for Wolf said.

Welfare Secretary Bev Mackereth said Wolf has told her he does not want to jeopardize people's getting coverage on Jan. 1.

"The timing is horrible. One has nothing to do with the other," said Mackereth. "The important thing today is that people will have coverage they never had."

Officials said Healthy PA is expected to save the commonwealth $616 million in the first year. Jen Branstetter, secretary of planning and policy for Gov. Corbett, said she was unable to provide a comparison with savings that would have been achieved under straight Medicaid expansion, saying those figures were three years old.

Meanwhile, the administration said it has secured an six-month extension to allow about 78,000 women to continue to receive reproductive health coverage under SelectPlan, which provides health services and birth control to women whose incomes are slightly higher than Medicaid and was set to expire Dec. 31.

"No one will go without access to health-care coverage," said Branstetter.

For more information visit http://www.healthypa.com or call 1-866-550-4355 or contact county social services offices.

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