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Would State Change Medicaid To Fix Budget?

By Andrea Sears, Public News Service
for The Post Publications

HARRISBURG PA – A fiscal analyst claims a bill could pass the General Assembly this week that would force some Pennsylvanians off Medicaid.

An amendment that’s part of House Bill 59, one of the measures being considered to implement the new but financially unsupported state budget, would impose work requirements and add new premiums and co-pays for Medicaid recipients, according to Marc Stier, director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center.

Stier claims the legislation is based on an assumption that there are many able bodied people receiving benefits who don’t deserve them. That’s just wrong, he adds: “Our fear about this proposal is that it really is just a way to reduce caseloads by denying people who deserve Medicaid fair entry into the program.”

Supporters of the legislation say it would reduce the state’s share of Medicaid expenses, and help close the $2 billion gap in the state budget.

Stier contends continuing budget deficits are the result of years of tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. Rather than raise new revenue, he says legislators are cutting programs that help the most vulnerable, including “people who are disabled, children, seniors living in nursing homes, and people whose incomes are too low to enable them to purchase health insurance.”

The average income for individuals on Medicaid in Pennsylvania is said to be about $500 a month. Stier adds that threatened federal cuts to Medicaid would shift even more costs to the state, and leave 1.3 million more Pennsylvanians without health insurance.

If the bill clears both the House of Representatives and Senate this week, Stier expects Gov. Tom Wolf will veto it. “He made a point when he took office of rejecting Gov. (Tom) Corbett’s Medicaid proposals, which were seeking to put on premiums and work requirements,” Stier noted. “(Wolf) said no to that.”

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