Program to provide health care to the low-income ended in 2011

Last updated: February 26. 2014 11:09PM - 1680 Views
By Bill O’Boyle boboyle@civitasmedia.com

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WILKES-BARRE — State Sen. John Blake joined the state Democratic Party chairman and other elected officials Wednesday to call attention to the three-year anniversary of the end of the Adult Basic Care program and the need for expanded Medicaid.

Gov. Tom Corbett ended Adult Basic in 2011, and he has yet to approve the expansion of Medicaid, leaving 500,000 state residents without health insurance, Blake said during a teleconference in Philadelphia.

Blake said the program was created to allow low-income workers in the state to purchase health-care insurance at a minimal cost. In February 2011, the governor ended the program, which was providing coverage to about 41,000 Pennsylvanians, and redirected the money from the state’s tobacco settlement to the state’s general fund.

“Those 41,000 Pennsylvanians lost access to their affordable health insurance,” Blake, D-Archbald, said.

State Democratic Chairman Jim Burn said Corbett has repeatedly broken his promise to support health coverage in Pennsylvania.

“Three years after Corbett refused to continue Adult Basic — a program that had worked for years to provide health care to hundreds of thousands of working Pennsylvanians — Corbett is stubbornly refusing to accept Medicaid expansion,” Burn said.

In response, Kait Gillis, deputy director of communications at the state Department of Public Welfare, said Pennsylvania is not in a position to expand Medicaid as it financially stands today.

“The governor’s Healthy Pennsylvania plan to reform Medicaid will increase access to health care coverage for all Pennsylvanians while delivering a financially sustainable option,” Gillis said. “Currently, one in six Pennsylvanians receive Medicaid benefits and the costs of the Medicaid program account for 27 percent of the commonwealth’s entire general fund budget. These costs continue to grow by hundreds of millions of dollars each year.”

Blake said the state Commonwealth Court ruled last March that the Corbett administration must reinstate the Adult Basic Care program beginning in fiscal year 2013-14. News reports said Corbett and state House Republicans have filed appeals.

Blake said the issue has been talked about in Harrisburg for more than two years. He said the governor’s Healthy PA plan must be approved by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and, if approved, won’t go into effect until 2015 or later.

Gillis said the governor hopes to have the plan up and running in January.

According to the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, Adult Basic, created in 2002, provided affordable basic health care to Pennsylvanians ages 19-65 earning up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

The program faced a funding crisis after the expiration of the Community Health Reinvestment Agreement in 2010. Under that agreement, the state’s four BlueCross BlueShield plans provided critical funding to Adult Basic since 2005.

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