Within months, as many as 600,000 uninsured Pennsylvanians will gain access to federally funded health insurance. That welcome expansion of safety-net coverage for the state's working poor gives Gov. Corbett some bragging rights. Though it is coverage that should have been available last time the Mummers Parade kicked off, the coming launch of a hybrid health plan crafted by the administration clearly stands as a case of better late than never.
While many of the low-wage workers to be added to the insurance rolls, as well as many on traditional Medicaid, are likely to receive reduced benefits - and to pay a monthly premium that could strain tight household budgets - thousands of uninsured adults might have slipped through the health-care cracks altogether without the plan just approved by federal officials, known as Healthy PA.
Corbett refused to follow New Jersey's Gov. Christie and many other chief executives from both parties in adopting a sensible, straightforward expansion of Medicaid under President Obama's landmark Affordable Care Act - even at an estimated cost to the state's economy of $1.7 billion in lost federal aid and some 40,000 jobs. But Corbett's course change to a compromise position a year ago - seeking federal approval to use Obamacare dollars to subsidize private health coverage - has restored hope that every Pennsylvanian will gain the access to health care promised by the federal law.
Praise for Corbett's initiative from hospitals and other care providers is warranted. The victory might even boost the Republican governor in opinion polls that have him consistently trailing his challenger in the November election, Tom Wolf.
As what might be called Corbettcare moves ahead, the possibility of a Wolf victory is yet another wild card in a process that's already been marred by uncertainty. The Democrat has said he favors an expansion of traditional Medicaid as envisioned by Obamacare.
The next man sworn in as governor - no matter which one it is - should at least recalibrate Healthy PA in ways that promote fairness and maximize health coverage. Scrapping the monthly premium should be the first such move, since it's likely to be a "gotcha" provision that causes people to lose coverage without good reason. Similarly, there is little justification for offering reduced benefits as if to second-class citizens. One more course correction: The state should create its own insurance exchange rather than rely on the federal HealthCare.gov site, which is facing a court challenge.