Pa. House Passes Last-Minute Bill That Would Drastically Change Medicaid

The legislation was amended less than 24 hours ago to include changes that would require the state to seek work requirements on Medicaid recipients.

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The Pennsylvania House passed legislation Tuesday that would enact drastic changes to the state’s Medicaid program.

The House approved the bill in a 102-91 vote, less than 24 hours after Republicans in the House rules committee amended it to include drastic alterations that would, among other things, require the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services to pursue a federal waiver of Medicaid rules to impose work requirements on the program.

Able-bodied Medicaid recipients would be required to be either employed or searching for a job. According to committee notes, last-minute amendments to the bill were made “to align with changes needed to implement budgetary provisions.” Republicans supported the amendments Monday night while Democrats unanimously voted against them.

According to the Pennsylvania Health Access Network, 60 percent of Medicaid expansion recipients are currently working, and roughly 75 percent belong to a household with at least one working member.

The organization strongly opposes House Bill 59, which it called “a sneak attack on our healthcare” and a “bad deal for Pennsylvania.”

“This bill makes hard-working people jump through additional layers of red tape,” PHAN said in a statement. “People will get stuck in paper chases or processing errors that will negate all their hard work by cutting them off from the care they need. Working Pennsylvanians deserve better.”

The bill, sponsored by Republican Rep. Dan Moul of Adams County, would also establish a “lock-in” program. Such programs enable states to restrict some patients to a single designated provider, pharmacy or both in effort to “rein in a Medicaid patient’s overuse, and possible abuse, of physician services and prescription drugs,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In addition, the legislation would add a premium for disabled children whose families receive income 1,000 percent above the federal poverty level.

Gov. Tom Wolf opposes the legislation. The governor’s spokesperson, J.J. Abbott, released the following statement Tuesday:

“Governor Wolf strongly opposes these backdoor changes to Medicaid that could have widespread and potentially life-changing effects on the health and well-being of millions of Pennsylvanians. Seniors, people with disabilities and low-income working families don’t need their lives to be made even more difficult by politicians in Harrisburg.

Beyond the substance of these changes, the process flies in the face of good government and these changes would cost millions of taxpayer dollars just to implement. There was no input from stakeholders or families that would be affected and no formal fiscal analysis.

Medicaid is not a handout — it is a lifeline. We need to support these families, not create more hoops for them to jump through.”

Community Legal Services, which provides free legal assistance to low-income Philadelphians, also opposes the bill. Kristen Dama, a supervising attorney with CLS, said the organization is particularly concerned that a federal waiver would “just create paperwork and red tape and keep people from getting the benefits they need without actually moving people into the workforce.”

House Republicans spokesman Steve Miskin did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Moul was also not immediately available.

The bill now heads to the state Senate.

Follow @ClaireSasko on Twitter.