Pennsylvania will expand Medicaid to more than 300,000 people under the auspices of Obamacare, the state announced Thursday.
Pennsylvania would be the 27th state (not including the District of Columbia) to participate in Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, and Gov. Tom Corbett would be the ninth Republican governor to sign on.
Corbett is among a handful of Republicans who have used the Medicaid expansion as a moment to petition the federal government for more flexibility in how they run the public program.
Pennsylvania, for example, received permission to charge higher earning Medicaid recipients (individuals making between $11,670 and $15,170) a monthly premium of 2 percent of their income. Enrollees can reduce their premium though by participating in certain activities, like seeking an annual check up and attempting job training events.
The expanded coverage, to become available Jan. 1, is for people earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, which is about $16,000 for a single person and $32,000 for a family of four. It's Corbett's version of the Medicaid expansion called for in Obamacare and now available in more than half the states.
Corbett's version of the plan will use the federal funds to buy private coverage, which administration officials say will give incentives toward healthy behavior and other measures intended to lead to greater self-sufficiency.
The plan approved by federal authorities also modifies the state's existing Medicaid plan. Corbett officials said Thursday that the plan will save state taxpayers $4.5 billion during the next eight years.
That last part has some health activists worried. Antoinette Kraus, director of the Pennsylvania Health Access Network, says:
"Today's agreement begins to dig Pennsylvania out of the hole Governor Corbett and lawmakers created when they rejected funding to expand health care coverage to half-a-million low-income Pennsylvanians. There never should have been a coverage gap in Pennsylvania, and we share the relief of hundreds of thousands of uninsured Pennsylvanians in knowing it's finally on track to close.
"However, serious concerns remain about the affordability of premiums and new bureaucratic hurdles under Healthy PA, and the drastic cuts Pennsylvania is seeking to make in our existing Medicaid program. If approved, these cuts will jeopardize the health of people with disabilities, pregnant women and seniors."