Corbett remains unwilling to expand Medicaid in Pennsylvania

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READING, Pa. -- Following a meeting with federal officials, Gov. Tom Corbett said Wednesday he still cannot recommend an expansion of Pennsylvania's Medicaid program, although he did not rule out such an option.

His comments Wednesday afternoon were his first remarks following a Tuesday night meeting in Washington, D.C. with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

"There were no direct answers last night. We didn't anticipate any direct answers last night. The staffs continue to talk. I'm not going to go into what the subject matter of those discussions were, because they are ongoing."

HHS officials had said the meeting was constructive and that the agency wants to be as flexible as it can.

Mr. Corbett spoke Wednesday at the Greater Reading Chamber of Commerce to promote his proposal to privatize state liquor stores.

Under a Medicaid expansion, the federal government will pay the full cost of newly eligible Medicaid enrollees for three years. After that, the federal share would gradually decrease to 90 percent in 2020. State expansions are part of the federal Affordable Care Act, although each state has the option to expand the program or not.

Expanding the program would provide coverage for as many as 643,000 additional low-income adults, according to state statistics.

Advocates for the expansion in Pennsylvania have cited studies noting the economic and job-creation benefits, and note that other Republican governors, such as Gov. John Kasich in Ohio and Gov. Chris Christie in New Jersey, support broadening the program.

Mr. Corbett has consistently said he cannot support an expansion because he believes it would add to a Medicaid budget burden that's already unsustainable.

A statement from Mr. Corbett's office said the governor requested information about using the private insurance market to expand coverage, similar to plans Arkansas and Tennessee are pursuing.

Mr. Corbett declined to give much detail on what was discussed, mentioning his office sought to verify that the 100 percent federal match is available for the commonwealth, and also discussed the Children's Health Insurance Program known as CHIP.

"There are budgetary implications to this," he said, responding to a question about the timeline for a possible agreement. "If we don't get it done in the next month or six weeks, maybe it's two months, maybe it's three months, maybe it's next year. Maybe we don't do anything."

electionspa - state - health

Kate Giammarise: kgiammarise@post-gazette.com, 1-717-787-4254 or Twitter @KateGiammarise.


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