False economies shouldn't stop expansion of Medicaid

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Your newspaper printed a report on the March 8 hearing by the state Senate Appropriations Committee at the Wyndham University Center in Oakland ("Many Urge Governor to Expand Medicaid," March 9). Unfortunately, that story typified the sort of thinking that could impede expanding Medicaid to more than 500,000 of our working but poorly paid citizens.

The report correctly covered the human needs that would be met but then invokes our governor with warnings about the cost of implementing the program. Ignored was the main thrust of the testimony that day, which demonstrated the enormous economic benefits to our state, dwarfing the cost outlay.

For every dollar the state would spend, we would realize $13 of benefits. More than 41,000 new jobs would be created, according to Neal Bisno of the Service Employees International Union. The health care industry, a leading employer in both Pittsburgh and Erie, would be strengthened. Hospitals would benefit by having new paying patients, enabling them to offset the $8 billion loss of federal funding which they will incur whether Medicaid is expanded or not.

If modestly paid home health care workers are included under Medicaid, they can continue to meet the needs of aged patients at home through the Community and Home Care Act; it is four times more cost-effective to treat these seniors at home rather than returning them to nursing homes.

According to Dr. Chris Hughes of Doctors for America, if Medicaid is not expanded, our state could suffer an exodus of physicians and other health care workers to surrounding states -- Ohio, New York, Maryland and New Jersey (and maybe West Virginia), which have expanded their programs. The working poor will be more economically productive because of better health maintenance, as demonstrated by the experience in Oregon.

Rather than costing us money, the hearing demonstrated that Pennsylvania will suffer devastating economic losses if the governor's false economies are heeded.

rel Hill




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