…And then the PA Senate killed Medicaid expansion
Over the span of four days, the Pennsylvania state Senate voted twice on language to include Medicaid expansion in the state’s welfare code. Both votes were bipartisan, but tell completely different stories about where the state’s political leadership is on implementing this piece of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which would provide health insurance to 500,000 to 700,000 Pennsylvanians.
On Sunday, the budget (and work) deadline was quickly approaching when the Senate shocked everyone by passing a bill, House Bill 1075, with added language to the state welfare code providing for Medicaid expansion in 2014—which had been approved by the Senate Public Health and Welfare committee vote just a couple days earlier, following numerous protests from activists all over the state.
The bill’s passage wasn’t so shocking. The margin in which it passed, was. The final vote was 40-10, with only staunch conservative Republicans dissenting.
Gov. Corbett had signed the 2013-2014 state budget on Sunday night around 10pm, but the next day, July 1st, there was still work to do on Medicaid—since the Legislature had been attempting to write the expansion into the welfare code, not the budget. That day, the bill went back to the House for approval. The language which would provide for Medicaid was stripped from the bill, then approved mostly along party lines, 108-94 (State Rep. John Taylor (R-Philadelphia) voted with Democrats).
On July 3rd, it was back in the Senate, specifically in the Senate Rules Committee, who were to decide whether they wanted to add the language back into the bill, or go along with the House. They chose the latter. The final language got to the full Senate and was passed mostly along party lines, again, 27-22 (State Sen. Daylin Leach did not vote.) Which essentially ended the gigantic game of chicken the legislative bodies had been playing — for the time being.
State Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia), a strong proponent of Medicaid, said the final vote was both disappointing and fiscally irresponsible.
“I cannot understand why my colleagues on the Republican side of the aisle voted overwhelmingly for Medicaid expansion just a few days ago but today failed to back up that vote with action,” he noted in a press release. “We should have amended the bill and sent it back to the House with Medicaid language included. I will keep fighting and hope that we can implement Medicaid expansion in Pennsylvania.”
Those who voted against the bill had numerous reasons for doing so, including their worry that Gov. Tom Corbett would veto such legislation (and, therefore, could have left the welfare code unfinished) forcing him to expand Medicaid before he’s concluded his apparent negotiations with the federal government, over how he’d like to push the bill, if he chooses to do it, some day.
Sen. Pat Vance (R-Cumberland), one of several Republican supporters of the expansion (who voted for it both times), says she will attempt to bring the bill up again in the fall. But for now, like many issues the Legislature hoped to complete this year, Medicaid remains in limbo.
Follow Randy on Twitter: @RandyLoBasso