Corbett expected to make announcement on Medicaid

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HARRISBURG -- Expect an announcement from Gov. Tom Corbett as early as Monday on the possibility of modifying Medicaid in Pennsylvania -- although what exactly will be announced isn't clear yet.

Republican legislative sources say a straightforward expansion of the health care program is not being considered, and a hybrid model that would give a subsidy to low-income consumers to buy private insurance is likely, similar to what has been proposed in Arkansas.

"They're looking at private options, which is appropriate," Steve Miskin, a spokesman for House Republicans, said Friday.

Administration officials seem to be avoiding even using the word "expansion" when discussing the issue.

"It is not Medicaid expansion," administration spokeswoman Lynn Lawson said Friday.

"Gov. Corbett does not support growing an entitlement program, as he has been very clear about the need for reform," Ms. Lawson said Thursday, following reports that the governor will accept federal funds to expand the program that provides health care coverage to about 1 in 6 low-income and disabled Pennsylvanians.

Democratic legislators have said they have few concrete details of what the Corbett administration will -- or won't -- roll out. House Democrats will be briefed Monday, said Bill Patton, a spokesman for Minority Leader Frank Dermody, D-Oakmont.

"We've made it clear that we want to see Medicaid expanded with federal dollars," Mr. Patton said Friday.

Several Democratic gubernatorial candidates took the opportunity Friday to simultaneously blast Mr. Corbett and urge him to move forward with an expansion.

"On Monday we'll see if Corbett has had a true conversion and will throw the Tea Party and [conservative Representative] Daryl Metcalfe under his campaign bus, or if this is just an election-year stunt," John Hanger, one such Democratic candidate said in an email statement. "And stunts are completely inappropriate when the health of 700,000 uninsured Pennsylvanians is at stake."

Officials from the state Department of Public Welfare have stated previously that any expansion or expansion-like initiative would happen in the broader setting of overhauling the existing Medicaid program and making changes such as a work-search requirement or adding co-pays for patients.

This idea drew criticism Friday from the Service Employees International Union Healthcare Pennsylvania, which has vigorously pushed for expansion.

Current Medicaid coverage should remain unchanged, said Neal Bisno, the union's president.

"The governor must not use Medicaid expansion as a weapon to make it harder for seniors, people with disabilities or children already in the program to see their doctor," he said in a statement Friday. "Finally, the governor has a responsibility to working families, hospitals and our economic future to develop a plan that meets the requirements of the Affordable Care Act."

An official from the conservative Commonwealth Foundation said the state's Medicaid program should be reformed, but he would like to see further details.

"We need to understand more of how this is going to truly reform Medicaid," said Matthew Brouillette, the group's president, following a briefing with administration officials.

Under a Medicaid expansion, as proposed by the 2010 Affordable Care Act, the federal government would pay the full cost of newly eligible Medicaid enrollees for three years. After that, the federal share gradually would decrease to 90 percent in 2020.

Though the expansions initially were envisioned as a mandatory part of the Obamacare overhaul, each state has the option of whether to expand the program because of last year's Supreme Court ruling that the Medicaid expansion should be optional.

The expansion was meant to make Medicaid available for virtually all people living at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty line. Currently, Medicaid serves select low-income populations -- disabled, pregnant, children and others.

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Kate Giammarise:, 717-787-4254 or on Twitter @KateGiammarise.


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