Medicaid Expansion Lives On

Moriah, Patrick

DFA Front Page story in the Gettysburg Times, October 2,  by Jim Hale

Gettysburg Democracy for America explores Medicare expansion in PA

Using Medicare funding to expand healthcare coverage in Pennsylvania was the topic Wednesday as an audience of about 40 gathered at Gettysburg College.

Comparing a federally funded expansion of traditional Medicare to the hybrid plan of Governor Tom Corbett was Patrick Keenan, consumer engagement manager for the Pennsylvania Health Access Network (PHAN).

In the form approved by federal regulators, Keenan said Corbett’s Healthy Pennsylvania plan provides coverage to some 400,000 people who lacked any coverage previously, but also reduces benefits for current Medicaid recipients.

Keenan said PHAN, like Corbett’s Democratic challenger Tom Wolf, would have preferred the expansion of traditional Medicaid permitted by the Affordable Care Act. However, Keenan stressed that the expansion of coverage within Corbett’s plan is “a victory,” and that PHAN stands ready to collaborate with whichever administration results from November’s election.

Audience members at the event, co-sponsored by the Gettysburg Democracy for America group, were harsher in their assessment of Healthy Pennsylvania, which is to take effect Jan. 1. During a question-and-answer period, they particularly derided the annual cost limits that Healthy Pennsylvania imposes on Medicaid recipients who face no such limits now, such as $500 for radiology. Audience members’ descriptions of such limits ranged from “ridiculous” to “nothing but punitive to the poor, and the working poor at that.”

One man [Dr. Dwight Michael] said those imposing such limits ought to have to live under them.

Another man [Baird Tipson] said he was sure a representative of Corbett, had one been present, would note that healthcare is a gigantic cost for the state, that Americans pay too much for healthcare, and that action to address those problems is surely necessary. However, the man said he doubted a Corbett representative would look at a single-payer health system like those used by virtually every other advanced nation.

Whether Corbett or Wolf wins, Keenan said, uncertainties remain. Even if Wolf wins and essentially shuts down Healthy Pennsylvania, Keenan said the state would still be affected by contracts now being negotiated. The talks with nine insurance companies concern Healthy Pennsylvania’s creation of a second statewide managed care network, he said.

 

And if Corbett wins, he said, myriad details remain undetermined in areas such as assigning current Medicaid recipients to a level of coverage based on their condition, collection of copays, administration of appeals, and more.

Moderating the nearly two-hour event, which took place in the College Union Building, was Gettysburg College senior Moriah Adams, a senior majoring in health sciences.

PHAN, according to its website, is “a statewide coalition of organizations working to protect high quality health insurance coverage for individuals and businesses and to expand coverage to the uninsured.”

 

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