Bumpy Start for the Healthcare Marketplace

The highly anticipated “marketplace” went live online this morning and if you tried to immediately shop for healthcare coverage, odds are you didn’t get very far. The website experienced frequent crashes after going online at about 8:00am and those who were able to load the home page were sent to a virtual waiting room.

Healthcare advocates had predicted the possibility of difficulties on day one as potentially millions of Americans tried to access the website to solve their health insurance woes. They urge patience and remind you that the enrollment period continues for 6 months, through March 31st, for 2014 coverage. After that, the enrollment period for each year will run from October 1st through December 7th of the previous year.

Those seeking coverage under the Affordable Care Act should also be careful to use the proper website, which is Another website,, was also offering side-by-side policy comparisons as of Tuesday morning, but officials say in order to receive tax credits for your insurance purchase you must go through the .gov website.

If you are seeking coverage under the Affordable Care Act, advocates say you should be very careful to compare the plans that will be available to you.


Radio PA Roundtable – September 27, 2013

On this week’s Radio PA Roundtable, Governor Tom Corbett stops by to talk about his plans for Medicaid expansion dollars and you’ll meet one of the many Democrats who is hoping to take the governor’s job in November of 2014. We begin our Election 2014 coverage with an interview with Democratic candidate John Hanger.

Radio PA Roundtable is a 30-minute program featuring in-depth reporting, commentary and analysis on the top news stories of the week.

Click the audio player below to hear the full broadcast:

Ask the Governor (AUDIO) for September 2013

This edition of Ask the Governor was recorded on Thursday, September 26th, 2013 and featured comments on the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, legislative priorities for the fall, NCAA sanctions being eased at Penn State, gay marriage, the Pittsburgh Pirates playoff run and much more (including your emails). You can listen to the entire program on and/or watch video clips of specific topics. And we now offer this audio version COMMERCIAL FREE. Click the play button to get started…

health care, prescription

Report: Fewer Pennsylvanians Getting Health Insurance via Employer

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has been tracking a decade-long decline in the number of Pennsylvania residents who receive health insurance through their jobs.  Back in 2001 78% of Pennsylvania residents received health insurance via their employers.  In 2011; 67%. 

A new report indicates the reduction is due to a combination of fewer employers offering insurance and fewer employees selecting insurance.  “And we think that part of this has to do with the costs,” RWJF senior vice president John Lumpkin tells Radio PA.  “Over the last ten years we’ve seen that the cost of buying insurance in Pennsylvania has more than doubled, and this makes it difficult for companies to try to purchase insurance for their employees.” 

Pennsylvania’s average employer-sponsored insurance premium for individuals now stands at $5,100.  Family premiums increased from $6,400 – $14,300 over the time period covered in the study.

In all, 47-states saw a statistically significant decline in employer-sponsored insurance over the past decade.  Pennsylvania was one of 22-states to see a drop-off of ten percentage points or more, but Lumpkin says it still ranks in the middle of the pack.

Starting in 2014, Lumpkin believes the health insurance exchange, offered via the Affordable Care Act, will provide alternatives for the 33% of Pennsylvanians who do not receive health insurance through their employers. 

But will states like Pennsylvania experience a further decline in employer-sponsored insurance once the federal health care overhaul is fully implemented?  According to Lumpkin, no.  “Seven years ago Massachusetts passed a law that was very similar to what we see with the ACA, and in their experience employer-sponsored insurance – insurance through the job – has stayed exactly flat.” 

Pennsylvania has elected to allow the federal government to operate its health insurance exchange, or marketplace, but could still opt to assume control at a later date.

Gov. Corbett Talks Medicaid with Secretary Sebelius

Governor Tom Corbett was in Washington DC, Tuesday evening, to talk Medicaid expansion with Department of Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.  Corbett has repeatedly said that he “cannot recommend Medicaid expansion at this time,” but he has never shut the door completely on the idea.

Under the Affordable Care Act the federal government is pledging to pick up 100% of the tab, for three years, if states opt-into an expanded Medicaid program that covers adults with incomes up to 133% of the federal poverty line.  The feds would then cover 90% of the costs in the out years. 

The move would make an estimated 800,000 more Pennsylvanians eligible for the taxpayer-funded health care program.  There is no deadline for states to make their decisions, but the Kaiser Family Foundation reports that 27-governors have already come out in support of the expansion

Below you can read the entire statement released by Governor Tom Corbett following his meeting with Secretary Sebelius:


“We had a meaningful discussion around increasing access to affordable, quality health care in a way that would lessen the burden on the state’s taxpayers in the long-term,” Corbett said. “I want to thank the secretary for her time and attention to our questions.”

The meeting was intended to clarify information and answer additional questions that came up as a result of correspondence between the state and the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) on the topics of Medicaid expansion and the implementation of a federally-facilitated health insurance exchange in Pennsylvania.

Corbett reiterated his long-standing goal to increase access to affordable healthcare coverage options for Pennsylvanians, but made it clear that without meaningful reform of the Medicaid program expansion remains an unsustainable option for Pennsylvania taxpayers.

The governor sought answers to several key questions, including verification that the 100 percent federal match is available for the commonwealth.

He also requested information around using the private insurance market to expand coverage in Pennsylvania, similar to what Arkansas and Tennessee are pursuing, coupled with significant reforms to Pennsylvania’s current Medicaid program to protect the program for those citizens who need it the most.

“Until we know whether or not significant reform is possible, I continue to have concerns that Pennsylvania’s Medicaid program will be able to serve, in a sustainable manner, the approximately one in four Pennsylvanians that would be covered under a full expansion,” Corbett said.

Corbett indicated that he will await further information from HHS and that no further decisions will be made at this time.


Insurance Rate Shock Coming for Young, Healthy People

2014 could prove to be a tumultuous year for health insurance rates.  Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Michael Consedine said as much when answering questions from members of the state House Appropriations Committee this week. 

Insurance Commissioner Michael Consedine

Insurance Commissioner Michael Consedine

Consedine says some segments of the population are likely to experience what he calls “rate shock,” upon full implementation of the Affordable Care Act next year.  “Ironically it’s most likely going to be young, healthy individuals who right now are getting the benefit of being young and healthy, and therefore that’s allowed in the underwriting process, and their premiums reflect that,” Consedine says.  “That rating formula goes away with the Affordable Care Act.” 

“You have it currently low for young people, and high for older and less healthy people,” Deputy Executive Insurance Commissioner Randy Rohrbaugh said, using a metaphorical seesaw analogy, “That seesaw changes.  Actually there will be winners and losers, and I think there’s going to be sticker shock on the side of the young, healthy people.” 

Sticker shock to the tune of 60% or more, Rohrbaugh estimates.

The theory, he says, is that any disruptions in health insurance rates will be short-lived.  However, he cautions that it could be a longer stabilization process should those young people opt-out of the health insurance system, and choose to take the penalty instead, under the Affordable Care Act. 

“It may take two or three years before that all will level through.”

No Medicaid Expansion, Corbett Seeks Reform

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.

Vincent Hughes

State Sen. Vincent Hughes

“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.

Corbett Passes on State-Run Health Insurance Exchange

With too many unanswered questions about the cost and regulation, Governor Corbett has decided not to pursue a state-based health insurance exchange.  Insurance Commissioner Michael Consedine calls it the best decision under the circumstances.  “What we’ve been finding out, as we’ve been going through this process and learning more information, is that the level of control and autonomy and flexibility that we thought we would have in a state exchange may not be there,” Consedine explains. 

The grassroots group Americans for Prosperity has been working the phones to lobby the administration and legislature on this issue all year, and state director Jennifer Stefano calls it the right move for the taxpayers.  “You have no control… but by the way – hey taxpayers – along with the 21 other taxes in Obamacare, you’re now going to pay for it,” she says in explaining the grassroots group’s stance on the exchange. 

While the governor’s decision comes as a disappointment to the Pennsylvania Health Access Network, director Antoinette Kraus is focused on the positive.  “Even though Governor Corbett has decided not to move forward with the state-based exchange, folks will still be able to access health insurance on January 1st, 2014, and that’s a good thing for working families and small businesses here in Pennsylvania,” she tells Radio PA. 

Kraus was referring to the fact that the federal government will now assume the responsibility of running Pennsylvania’s health insurance marketplace, under the Affordable Care Act.  PA is one of 28 states to allow the feds to run its exchange.  These states will still be allowed to opt-in at a later date.