Corbett Has No Excuses Left on Medicaid Expansion

As if things couldn’t get worse for Pennsylvania’s governor, an independent report was released this week showing his administration’s stubborn rejection of Medicaid funds to lock the rings of Obamacare in place in the commonwealth is, probably, the wrong one.

The report was released by the Republican-controlled state Legislature’s Fiscal Office. It noted that accepting an increase in Medicaid dollars and patients in the state would add $435 million to state coffers, generated by $215 million in tax revenue from jobs and medical businesses—and about 500,000 newly insured adults and kids in Pennsylvania.

The Medicaid expansion is a portion of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act which would lower the threshold for poor people to get on the Medicaid rolls, opening it up to individuals making as much as $15,302 per year and $31,155 for a family of four. The federal government would prop the system up completely for the first three years, at which time the state would begin chipping in 10 percent. And the feds would get some of the cash by re-routing Disproportionate Share Payments for hospitals to Medicaid, which is money the feds send to hospitals around the country for treating patients without health care who show up to the emergency room.

One person who’s been arguing for the federal Medicaid cash for a while now is state Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia), who held a meeting in City Hall back in January to discuss the savings and 285,000 jobs it’s estimated the expansion would create over the next decade. “The far-right Tea Party guys don’t want anything from the federal government,” he explained to PW at the time. “They don’t want, from their perspective, intrusion. And here you have a situation where folks are saying, look, we will pay for the insurance of maybe three-quarters of a million people in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. How do you ignore that deal?”

And he’s got a point. Pennsylvania could use some jobs. At the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference last week, a sunburned Corbett gave a speech noting that the state is on the verge of an economic “revolution,” even if—and he left this part out—our economy is a dismal mess. That reddish hue on the governor’s oft-pasty forehead was the result of his leading a delegation of 19 Pennsylvania companies and leaders to Brazil and Chile earlier this month to woo South Americans into investing Pennsylvania. And he largely succeeded, except the engineering firm he got the Brazilians to open in Chambersburg is set to begin a mere 74 jobs to the Keystone State—which, we’ll admit is, uh, more than 73 jobs.

Compare that to the massive medical infrastructure that could come about when and if the federal government helps expand those on the government’s healthcare plan. Governor Corbett’s acting public welfare secretary Beverly Mackereth issued a letter Tuesday noting the administration “is concerned that the federal government may discontinue or significantly” reduce the state’s taxing power if we agree to Obama’s largest legislative success in office.

So, the numbers are there. It’s generally agreed upon (outside the Heritage Foundation’s Google+ circles) that bringing more Pennsylvanians onto the Medicaid rolls would be a good thing—and would help bring about the Obamacare cost savings we were promised in the first place.

And, yet:

About half the states in the union have signed onto the Medicaid expansion and half have not, though it’s not clear what those states rejecting the expansion’s (like Pennsylvania, and Texas) hospitals plan to do when they don’t receive the hundreds of thousands of dollars per year they were previously receiving.

The Pennsylvania state Legislature and special interest groups have put high pressure on the governor to not accept the federal cash, with the House going so far as to pass a resolution condemning the bloat and the state’s Americans for Prosperity wing actually saying, “Those enrolled in Medicaid have worse health outcomes than patients that have no health insurance at all”—with a straight face!

While Corbett rejected the funds, he didn’t completely shut the door, either. He says he still wants his HHS questions answered. Which begs the question: With all the changes the Pennsylvania GOP wants this year (liquor, pensions, etc.), will Medicaid be used as a bargaining chip?

Follow Randy on Twitter: @RandyLoBasso

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