Medicaid murmurings: Some Republicans now see expansion as a good deal

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Even some members of Gov. Tom Corbett’s own Republican Party have come to the conclusion that expanding the federal Medicaid program under Obamacare is the best way to help working Pennsylvanians.

On Wednesday, three members of the state House Human Services committee voted with nine Democrats to advance a Medicaid expansion bill. That’s not the tectonic shift necessary among Harrisburg Republicans to turn odds in favor of the measure in the full House, but it’s a start. There will be plenty of pressure to do something in the coming weeks as lawmakers try to close a $1.2 billion gap in the 2014-15 budget, as impatience grows over the uncertain future of Mr. Corbett’s Medicaid alternative called Healthy PA and as the November election approaches.

In Pennsylvania, Medicaid health coverage is available to people who are poor, elderly or have disabilities. If it were expanded as permitted — but not required — under the federal Affordable Care Act, coverage would open up to 500,000 people who currently make too much money for Medicaid but who cannot afford appropriate insurance.

Mr. Corbett, an early opponent of Obamacare, instead proposed Healthy PA, which would allow those individuals to buy private insurance with help from federal subsidies. That plan depends on approval from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and, despite some adaptations made by the governor, it’s still in limbo. And so are hundreds of thousands of families.

The measure approved by the state House committee meets in the middle. It would allow the federal expansion to go forward at the same time Mr. Corbett is trying to get the OK for his plan.

Likewise, the Cover the Commonwealth Campaign — made up of 130 organizations — today will announce a middle-ground proposal that would allow the expansion to go into effect at least until there is a verdict for Healthy PA.

Republican leaders in both the state House and Senate have said they don’t plan to take up Medicaid expansion while Mr. Corbett is still talking with the federal government.

It’s time for Pennsylvanians to let their elected representatives on both sides of the aisle know they won’t take no for an answer.

Meet the Editorial Board.


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