Corbett says his Medicaid plan will require the employed to search for new work

"You're in MY house now!"

Governor Tom Corbett has finally come clean on Medicaid expansion: he’s willing to do it, as long as the state complies with several conservative reforms to the Medicaid program beforehand—and even then, as long as that’s done his way.

Surrounded by members of the hospital community and others, Gov. Corbett held a press conference Monday afternoon to describe a plan which would reform Pennsylvania’s Medicaid system through a series of “common sense” initiatives, like reforming the 14 current Medicaid options to two “commercial-like” options; encouraging recipients to go to a family doctor instead of the Emergency Room; requiring individuals to pay a monthly premium; and exchanging  individuals who qualify to participate in a “work search” or work training program.

Once those are put into place and OK’d by the federal government, the Administration will seek to expand Medicaid to individuals whose income is 133 percent of the federal poverty rate—as detailed in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. That means individuals who make $15,400 and families of four who bring in $31,800 can strap themselves to the Medicaid rolls, with the new strings attached.

There are currently at least 520,000 people in Pennsylvania without insurance, 137,000 of which live in Philadelphia.

“The reforms I just talked about are state-based solutions that will enable sustainability for the current Medicaid program, providing critical care for those who need it most,” the governor said.

He additionally noted that without those cost-saving reforms, Pennsylvania will not be able to expand Medicaid at all.

Part of the plan to afford the expansion will be to eventually have less people on Medicaid, apparently, and the state hopes to do that by requiring “work search and linkages to job training for all unemployed, working-age Medicaid beneficiaries, with limited exceptions,” according to the state’s official Medicaid plan.

That job search will be put together by the Pennsylvania Departments of Public Welfare, and Labor and Industry, using the JobGateway Internet search engine to help the unemployed fill some employment listings. And since nothing in this idea even resembles small government reform, at all, why not require those getting Medicaid also use PA Career Coach, “a career exploration tool with valuable employment data such as estimated earnings and local educational programs to help prepare for a specific occupation”?

That’s part of it, too.

But what about those whom Medicaid will be expanded to? Those are people who work, but don’t receive enough money to buy private health insurance.

They, too, will be subject to jumping through the same hoops as those currently covered by Medicaid. And worse yet, they’ll be used as a bargaining chip to force the federal government into subsidizing private insurance companies and a state employment coach. (The feds want to expand Medicaid and have been working with those most-stubborn states to do it, even if, like Arkansas’ plan, it ends up costing more.)

And it’s not just the monthly premiums those whom Medicaid is being expanded to will be subject to. It’s the whole damn thing. Like the “work search.” Corbett admitted during his presser that those who qualify for Medicaid, whether they work or not, will be subject to the “work search” requirements.

Why would he want people who work to search for new jobs through bureaucratic means? No idea.

“If and only if the federal government approves Pennsylvania’s plan to reform our existing Medicaid program, the commonwealth would be in a position to utilize federal dollars to offer access to a private health care coverage options to low income, newly- eligible Pennsylvanians, up to 133 percent of the fed poverty level who are presently uninsured,” he said.

Then he said: “These individuals, through the healthy Pennsylvania option, would have the ability to purchase that private health insurance plans through the federal health insurance exchange. Just like the reformed Medicaid program, these individuals would be required to search for work or participate in job training and to pay a modest monthly premium.

Speaking from experience, I can say that for many jobs which pay minimal wages, the last thing anyone wants (and the last thing that’s going to do any good) during a lull is logging onto a state-run government website to look for a new job. If you’re someone who’s spent time attempting to make ends meet via a series of creative, and non-creative, freelance gigs (raises hand) half your day consists of applying for jobs anyway.

And who does the Administration think is working the minimum wage service jobs around the commonwealth? At $7.25 per hour, many workers, sadly, do not have regular access to the Internet (according to Internet World Stats, almost 3 million Pennsylvanians do not have Internet access) when they get home. Perhaps with all the cost savings in Corbett’s sweet new plan, the state can subsidize bus rides to the local library?

Oh, right.

The governor additionally noted that the federal government would be foolish not to accept the plan he’s offering.

Except for the most basic fact, which Keystone Politics may have said best: “It is not clear that Tom Corbett knows what Medicaid is.”

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