Democratic members of the state Senate Appropriations Committee held a hearing in Pittsburgh on March 8 to receive testimony from local officials and health-care experts regarding Pennsylvania’s option to expand Medicaid coverage under the federal Affordable Care Act.
“It is my hope to rally all of us together to build a broad-based movement in order to move the governor and his administration forward into reality to join 24 other states and accept the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act,” said Sen. Jim Ferlo, who conducted the hearing. “The long-term battle on this issue is to redefine health care services that specifically meet the needs of our community.”
Sen. Ferlo was joined by Sen. Vincent J. Hughes (D-Philadelphia), who serves as Democratic chair of the committee and Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa (D-Forest Hills). Also participating were Sen. Matt Smith (D-Mt. Lebanon), Sen. Wayne Fontana (D-Brookline), Sen. John Wozniak (D-Cambria), and Sen. Sean Wiley (D-Erie).
Expanding Medicaid eligibility would provide health insurance coverage for an estimated 600,000 individuals while simultaneously reducing health-care costs by making preventative services more readily available. It is estimated that cost savings and additional revenue will amount to more than $670 million if the state participates in the expansion.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) included a provision which allowed, but did not require, states to receive federal subsidies in order to expand Medicaid for the purpose of providing insurance coverage to more people.
The decision on Pennsylvania’s participation rests with Gov. Tom Corbett who has, so far, hasn’t decided to participate.
Sen. Hughes made some important distinctions about Pennsylvanians who receive Medicaid: “There is a misconception of individuals on Medicaid. Recipients are all working individuals who are trying to make ends meet, and do everything that is necessary to provide for their families. Since the passage of Obamacare, now is the time to see full implementation of this plan in order to bring jobs to Pennsylvanians and savings to the state budget.”
Federal funds are available to pay 100 percent of the cost of the expansion from 2014 through 2017, at which point Pennsylvania would take on a percentage of the costs. Following the full phase-in of state coverage, federal funds will continue to cover 90 percent of the cost of the expansion.
Studies have shown that individuals who are insured get necessary care and better manage complex, chronic issues. Without access to health care, the uninsured become sicker and ultimately rely on emergency room care that they cannot afford. Pennsylvania hospitals provide more than $800 million in uncompensated care annually, according to industry experts.
Testimony during the hearing focused on the importance of ensuring that those in need continue receiving access to critical health-care services.