More PA House Members Ask Corbett to Opt Out of Medicaid Expansion

Earlier this week, 48 members of the state House sent a letter to Gov. Corbett urging him to opt out of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, an optional portion of the PPACA which would expand government healthcare for those making more than is currently required for Medicaid, but still a percentage under the federal poverty rate. The letter, by Rep. Gordon R. Denlinger of Lancaster County, is an updated version of one he sent in July, though three new names have been added for further solidarity on the matter. All signers are Republicans.

“I am re-sending this letter with the additional signatures of several House Members,” writes Denlinger. “After reviewing the recent Supreme Court ruling that gives Pennsylvania the flexibility to legally opt out of implementing some of the most financially harmful provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), we believe it is in the best interest of our Commonwealth to prevent these costs from being passed onto hardworking Pennsylvania taxpayers.”

While Pennsylvania cannot block the PPACA without a ballot referendum (and then some…), the Supreme Court noted this summer in its majority opinion that one section of the law, the Medicaid expansion, was not required and left up to governors. The legislators who’ve signed the letter to Corbett believe “creating the insurance ‘exchanges’ … will translate into higher insurance premiums for our hardworking residents” and note the Congressional Budget Office has echoed this, though there are many detractors.

“This is an incredibly foolish move on the part of Republican House Members,” says Michael Morrill of Keystone Progress, a progressive advocacy organization based out of Harrisburg. “Every study has shown that expanding Medicaid will benefit low-income Pennsylvanians and Pennsylvania’s overall economy.  The Congressional Budget Office [has said] Pennsylvania will spend only 2.8 percent more on Medicaid than we would have spent without health reform.”

As we wrote earlier this year, here’s how the Medicaid expansion would work: “The federal government would cover 100 percent of the cost in 2014, when the rest of the law goes into effect, with state contributions kicking in two years later and topping out at 10 percent in 2019. Pennsylvania’s cost at that point would be about $1 billion. Those people whose incomes are 133 percent below the federal poverty level would qualify. And Medicaid would be expanded to 17 million people throughout the country.”

Not implementing the Medicaid expansion while allowing the rest of the law to take hold in the Keystone State could be troublesome.

There’s something the government hands out to hospitals right now called Disproportionate Share Payments, which is extra Medicaid cash hospitals take for admitting individuals without health insurance into emergency rooms. That’s being phased out because the Medicaid expansion would help an estimated 650,000 Pennsylvanians get onto the government rolls. If it’s blocked, which is what Denlinger and the 47 other House members want, many more Pennsylvanians will not be covered under the PPACA and hospitals will be left hung out to dry.

The American Hospital Association estimates U.S. hospitals were left with $39.3 billion in unpaid bills in 2010.

“Rejecting expanded Medicaid will hurt poor people, will hurt hospitals and will be a huge burden on our economy as people are forced to seek unfunded healthcare at Pennsylvania’s emergency rooms,” continues Morrill. “This is the classic example of being penny wise and pound foolish.”

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