Corbett set to give update on Medicaid

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The Corbett administration is expected to give an update today on where it stands in discussions with the federal government regarding its proposed overhaul of the state's Medicaid program, which provides health insurance for about 1 in 6 low-income Pennsylvanians.

No specifics about the update were made available ahead of the briefing.

Earlier this week, officials at the state Department of Public Welfare declined to discuss the status of tens of thousands of children who could be moved into Medicaid and out of the Children's Health Insurance Program -- something the Corbett administration has been fighting -- saying the issue would be addressed in the Thursday briefing.

Currently, Pennsylvania is one of only four states still deciding whether to go ahead with Medicaid expansion. A spokesperson for the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which is responsible for vetting states' expansion plans, said Pennsylvania had not submitted a formal proposal as of Wednesday.

In September, Republican Gov. Tom Corbett unveiled a plan, titled "Healthy PA," to overhaul the state's Medicaid program. As an alternative to simply expanding Medicaid, Healthy PA would fundamentally change the state's Medicaid system.

Mr. Corbett called it "a common-sense plan that provides health care choices, reforms a broken Medicaid system and expands the private health care market, while reducing government bureaucracy and helping Pennsylvanians get healthy and find jobs."

Under Healthy PA, the six-month waiting period before children are insured would be eliminated and there would be expanded use of community-based primary care clinics.

But Medicaid recipients also would be required to pay a "reasonable" monthly premium, while unemployed, working-age recipients would have to conduct job searches and undergo job training.

Last month, at a public meeting in Pittsburgh to discuss the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Joanne Corte Grossi, Health and Human Services regional director, declined to address specifics of the state's plan, which she described as "a concept paper."

But she did note that, under Healthy PA, Pennsylvania would be the first state to include a job search requirement for Medicaid recipients.

Currently, 26 states have opted to expand their Medicaid programs and 21 have declined, while Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Missouri and Utah are still considering it.

All of Pennsylvania's neighbors -- Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey and New York -- are expanding Medicaid.

At stake is a big pot of money: The federal government will pay the entire cost of Medicaid expansion for the first three years, starting in 2014, then gradually reduce that to 90 percent by the end of the decade. But skeptics are concerned that more of the expanded program's cost eventually will be shifted to the states.

Steve Twedt: stwedt@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1963. Kate Giammarise: kgiammarise@post-gazette.com or 1-717-787-4254 or on Twitter @KateGiammarise.


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