Corbett-care: The governor appears to be rethinking Medicaid

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A signal that the Corbett administration may be softening its position on Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act is a step in the right direction of helping low-income working Pennsylvanians.

Administration officials plan to spend this week talking with state legislators about options for expansion in the context of broader changes for the existing Medicaid program, which provides health care coverage for poor families.

Tom Corbett is among a group of Republican governors who have resisted the proposed expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare, in which the federal government would pick up the full cost of new enrollees for three years and then gradually reduce its contribution to 90 percent by 2020. The governor has said repeatedly that he is concerned about the long-term costs for Pennsylvania, despite numerous studies that say it would be a win for the state.

But Public Welfare Secretary Beverly Mackereth last week softened the "no, no, no" position. She said the administration has been studying the Medicaid system and that Mr. Corbett would like to see, among other things, requirements that recipients who are unemployed prove they are looking for a job and that recipients be charged co-pays for some services.

Ms. Mackereth also said Medicaid expansion plans similar to those adopted in Iowa and Arkansas also are on the table. In those states, rather than transferring new recipients directly into the Medicaid program, federal Medicaid funds would be used to help low-income families buy private insurance from the new health insurance exchanges.

It's too soon to evaluate whether the administration's plan would be better for Pennsylvania's low-wage families. At this point, though, it is encouraging that options for extending health care coverage are being discussed instead of simply rejected along with the federal dollars that would come with it.

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