Corbett says OK, but with conditions
Gov. Tom Corbett has finally relented and stepped forward to claim federal money being offered to expand Medicaid, the program that provides health coverage for low-income people, but there’s a catch. Like Frank Sinatra, Corbett wants to do it his way.
Earlier this week, the governor outlined his proposal for changing the Medicaid program in Pennsylvania. He wants the federal money, but he doesn’t want to expand Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.
Instead, Corbett wants to require Medicaid recipients to buy private insurance – it’ll be interesting to see who gets rich in that process – while replacing the doctor visit co-pays currently made by recipients with a system based on monthly premiums. Corbett also wants to require able-bodied Medicaid recipients to seek employment via an online job clearinghouse created by his administration. We have no problem with making sure that those who are clearly able to seek and hold gainful employment do so and are not allowed to live permanently on the dole. But there also has to be a recognition some folks simply are not highly employable, for a wide variety of reasons, and even if they were, the competition for jobs in this state remains fairly fierce.
Also, we have to wonder just what kind of bureaucracy will be required to set up this clearinghouse and ride herd on the Medicaid recipients. This is a state that already has proven to be unwilling, or incapable, of effectively determining whether those on unemployment are seeking jobs.
Certainly, there are going to be some who question Corbett’s motives and whether his proposals ultimately will benefit the less fortunate.
As the Associated Press wrote in a story about the governor’s announcement, “It … continues the evolution of Corbett from a conservative who sued unsuccessfully to overturn President Barack Obama’s signature health care law and is characterized by critics as heartless toward the poor to someone who now says he wants to secure affordable health care for all Pennsylvanians.”
Surely we’re not the only ones wondering whether perhaps next year’s gubernatorial election influenced the incumbent Republican’s thinking. Certainly, if Corbett were to flatly turn down billions in federal health-care funding, his election opponents could be counted on to bring that up more than occasionally. And there are no doubt many moderate voters, potentially key swing voters in next year’s election, who might look askance at a candidate who could be viewed as putting his political party’s principles ahead of the needs of struggling Pennsylvanians.
We also are concerned about how long this intergovernmental do-si-do may take to play out. We’re all well aware of the ability of the state and federal governments to fail miserably when quick, effective action is called for. When both those levels of government are involved, all bets are off. It’s a bit disconcerting that Corbett, at his Monday news conference, declined to answer when asked what would happen if the feds refuse to sign off on any of his demands or question the need for imposing the new work requirement on recipients.
Corbett contends that the state cannot afford the future costs associated with expanding Medicaid through the Obama system. The program, he said, already covers one in six Pennsylvanians, many of them children and elderly nursing home residents. He’s convinced his program is the best way to meet the needs of the people while being as fiscally responsible as possible.
With the changes he proposes, Corbett says the state can expand eligibility guidelines to include people earning as much as 133 percent of the federal poverty level, which figures out to $31,000 a year for a family of four.
His administration predicts it can add health coverage for 520,000 people as a result.
At present, we can only say that we hope the governor is right, especially for the sake of those who desperately need access to care.