Pa. Gov. Corbett open to Medicaid expansion, but reforms must come first

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Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett said Monday he will seek federal funds to buy private health insurance for thousands of state residents who are newly eligible for Medicaid under the new health care law, but only if he can secure reforms to the entitlement program first.

Mr. Corbett, a Republican, made his long-awaited announcement less than four months before half the states expand Medicaid enrollment within their borders to those making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.
The federal government has pledged to pay for 100 percent of the expanded Medicaid population in 2014-2016, before scaling down its contribution to 90 percent in 2020 and beyond.

The Supreme Court said last year states could choose to decline the expansion, and accompanying federal dollars, as envisioned by the Affordable Care Act.

Some Republican governors who criticized Obamacare in the past opted to expand, others balked and still more demanded reforms to Medicaid before they entertained the idea.

Mr. Corbett fell into the last camp and rolled out his demands on Monday. He wants to align Medicaid benefits with standards tied to private and commercial insurance; require unemployed, working-age beneficiaries to seek a job; and reward the use of preventative care to reduce emergency room visits by establishing monthly premiums for adult Medicaid users on a sliding scale from zero to $25.

“It’s a Pennsylvania-based plan that is based on common-sense reforms, creates real healthcare choices, reduces government bureaucracy and provides a pathway to independence for all Pennsylvanians,” the governor said.
If those reforms can be achieved, Mr. Corbett said he would work with the federal government to insure 520,000 more low-income residents.

He would follow a plan pioneered by officials in Arkansas, in which federal dollars would be used to purchase private health plans for the newly eligible Medicaid population on the state health exchange set up under Obamacare.

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