PA government panel links Medicaid expansion to gun violence prevention
An advisory committee created thorough a 2013 state Senate resolution has found that Pennsylvania is inadequate at dealing with gun violence and should look at changes to both existing gun laws and mental health laws.
The committee, created via a resolution sponsored by State Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Bucks), actually has 44 recommendations for government, law enforcement, and first responders in dealing with gun violence and prevention. The recommendations—six of which relate to mental health—are meant to “make schools safer” and “develop awareness, education, and other strategies to reduce and prevent violent crime,” according to a summary report.
To do so, the report recommends we take on some much-debated federal policy. Specifically, the expansion of Medicaid the state government has been wrestling with since the Supreme Court upheld the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, in 2012.
On page 71 of the report is a recommendation that Pennsylvania use federal funds written into Obamacare to expand Medicaid throughout the state and use those funds for additional community mental health services.
“Additional funding for community mental health services is desperately needed,” reads the recommendation. “Insurance coverage parity for mental disorders should continue and Medicaid expansion funds available under federal law should be provided for more community mental health services.”
As we’ve noted in the past, Obamacare was written to expand Medicaid funds to those individuals whose incomes are 133 percent of the federal poverty line This would have meant coverage to more than 500,000 low-income Pennsylvanians who are between the federal poverty line and making enough to enjoy private health insurance.
Gov. Tom Corbett, while at first refusing the funds and expansion, recently introduced his own version of Medicaid expansion, which would have qualified low-income earners seek out private insurance, and, among other things, force recipients to search for new employment. The state is currently holding hearings on that plan.
Lots of public health advocates have spoken out against the plan, which Corbett calls “Healthy PA.” One of those who wants to see Medicaid expanded as Obamacare was written is state Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-Phila). When contacted regarding this report’s recommendations on Medicaid, Hughes’ spokesperson Ben Waxman noted: “It’s a big step forward that the report makes a clear connection between violence, public health, and Medicaid expansion. It also echoes what Senator Hughes has been saying for more than a year: Pennsylvania should participate in Medicaid expansion and reap the many benefits of participating in this program.”
But how would expanding Medicaid work into this? Here goes: The advisory committee’s recommendation is such that since Obamacare expanded the federal Mental Health Parity and Addition Equity Act (that mental health/substance abuse financial requirements and treatment limitations are no more restrictive than any other medical or surgical benefits) to individual and small group markets this year, if it expanded Medicaid in full, it could use federal dollars to help treat those with mental disorders who may be more likely to perpetuate violence via firearm.
Or: More money for health care, more money for mental health care.
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