- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Obama administration announced Thursday it has approved Pennsylvania’s customized plan to expand Medicaid under Obamacare.

Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, who is up for re-election this year, had pushed his “Healthy Pennsylvania” proposal as a palatable way to leverage federal funding and cover low-income residents, but without fully embracing the Affordable Care Act. The plan will use the funds to enroll eligible residents in private plans instead of placing them in traditional Medicaid, although the benefits must of the same quality.

Mr. Corbett is one of several Republican governors to expand Medicaid in some form, and the latest to employ the “private-option” model pioneered by Arkansas.

The coverage will take effect in 2015, and no one will have to pay premiums. Starting in 2016, people who earn more than the federal poverty level must pay a premium that cannot exceed 2 percent of their household income, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

To date, 27 states and the District of Columbia have opted to expand their programs.

“Like we are doing in Pennsylvania, HHS and CMS are committed to supporting state flexibility and working with states on innovative solutions that work within the confines of the law to expand Medicaid to low-income individuals,” CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner said. “But, unfortunately, millions of Americans are still without Medicaid coverage because their state has yet to act.”

The Affordable Care Act calls on states to expand the federal-state entitlement to those making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

The federal government will pay 100 percent of the costs for the newly eligible population in 2014-2016 before scaling back its contribution to 90 percent in 2020 and beyond.

However, the Supreme Court in 2012 said Medicaid expansion should be optional. Many Republican governors have resisted the expansion, citing future costs and opposition to Obamacare.

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