HARRISBURG -- In the continuing tug of war over a possible Medicaid expansion in Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Corbett's administration has taken the unusual step of refuting an analysis by the state's Independent Fiscal Office that found under a Medicaid expansion, the commonwealth would gain federal funds and reduce state expenditures.
The Department of Public Welfare "has serious concerns regarding several assumptions included in the report," the department's acting secretary, Beverly Mackereth, wrote in a letter to the director of the state's Independent Fiscal Office, estimating "at least $515 million that is improperly credited as a savings, revenue, or underestimated costs to the Commonwealth."
The IFO has made revisions to its report to add information that wasn't available at the time the initial report was written, but it said it stands by its numbers: Under expansion, state expenditures would fall by $155 million and general fund revenues rise by $100 million.
The IFO was created in 2010 to act as a neutral, nonpartisan, number-crunching agency. It provides revenue analysis for use in the state budget process and other impartial analysis, similar to the Congressional Budget Office.
As part of its mission, the agency pledges not to support or oppose any policy it analyzes and to "disclose all methodologies, data sources and assumptions used in published reports and estimates."
While the IFO is a relatively new state agency, director Matthew Knittel said he has never previously received a letter similar to the one he received Monday, refuting his agency's analysis.
Medicaid expansion has been a hot-button issue in Harrisburg, with Mr. Corbett continuing to say he will decline such an expansion due to uncertainties about future costs in a program already responsible for a large share of the state budget, and Democrats saying an expansion will cover the uninsured, bring federal dollars to the state and create health care jobs.
"Most importantly, it provides health care coverage, a modest level of health care coverage, for over half a million working individuals who today go to work every day and don't have the benefit of having health insurance," Senate Democratic leader Jay Costa of Forest Hills said Monday at a Pennsylvania Press Club luncheona in Harrisburg.
The decision on whether to expand Medicaid was left to each state under the federal Affordable Care Act after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the law's requirement that most people have health insurance.
The Corbett administration has said the expansion would add more than 800,000 new enrollees to the program and cost the state more than $4 billion in additional state tax dollars by the end of June 2021.
Kate Giammarise: email@example.com or 1-717-787-4254 or on Twitter @KateGiammarise.