Pennsylvania will not pursue an expanded Medicaid program until the federal government reforms the system. Governor Tom Corbett made his intentions known during Tuesday’s budget address before the General Assembly. “We cannot afford to expand a broken system,” Corbett announced. “Right now, without expansion, the cost to maintain our current Department of Public Welfare programs will increase by $400-million dollars. The main driver in that cost increase is Medicaid and long-term care.”
The Affordable Care Act expanded Medicaid to cover people up to 138% of the federal poverty line, but a Supreme Court ruling made it an option for the states.
Until reforms are made, Corbett is opting out. “The federal government must authorize real flexibility and innovative reforms that empower us to make the program work for Pennsylvania,” he says. The governor has written the federal government to express his concerns.
But the move has irked Senate Democrats, as Medicaid expansion supporters say it would cover at least a half-million more Pennsylvanians, save on uncompensated care costs and inject billions of federal dollars into the state’s economy.
“The governor is walking away not just from the number one health care issue that is confronting us, but the number one job creation issue that exists in front of us,” Senator Vincent Hughes lamented in the wake of Corbett’s budget speech.
The federal government has promised to pay 100% of the cost of the Medicaid expansion for the first three years, but the Corbett administration says the state’s administrative costs would approach $1-billion dollars over that time, and they are not interested in raising taxes or cutting programs to make up the difference.
Last December, Corbett also passed on a state-run health insurance exchange, under the new federal health care law.