More than 500,000 Pennsylvanians need health care coverage now
This is a guest column.
by State Rep. Frank Dermody
It’s easy to get caught up in – and turned off by – the political mudslinging that has dominated the federal Affordable Care Act, commonly known as ObamaCare.
What often gets lost in all the political noise is the fact the law will help millions of Americans – including hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians – get access to affordable health care for themselves and their families.
Two issues related to ObamaCare are in the news lately, and they’re both important.
First, the new Health Insurance Marketplace, www.healthcare.gov, was launched this month, allowing people, for the first time, to shop online for a health insurance plan that works best for them.
The second issue is Medicaid expansion – the option under the new law for states to expand insurance to a larger group of working people with less income who currently don’t qualify for Medicaid but also can’t afford private insurance on the Marketplace.
Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government will pay for 100 percent of the cost of Medicaid expansion for the first three years. Starting in 2017, the federal share will gradually drop to 90 percent of the cost, meaning states will pay no more than 10 percent of the costs annually after the first three years.
Twenty-five states have accepted Medicaid expansion, including neighboring New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and West Virginia.
Here in Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Corbett has refused to expand Medicaid, despite the fact that it would provide health care coverage for more than a half-million uninsured, working Pennsylvanians, and despite the fact that it would bring an infusion of tens of billions of federal dollars into our state and local economies.
Instead, Corbett has chosen a needlessly complicated – and potentially more expensive – approach that would send federal Medicaid dollars to private insurance carriers, while also adding unnecessary, and likely illegal, hurdles for Pennsylvanians to get coverage.
Even if Corbett receives federal approval, which is by no means guaranteed, it will likely take months of negotiations. That means that those 500,000-plus Pennsylvanians, who need health care coverage, will have to wait while their neighbors in other states start getting covered as of Jan. 1, 2014, using Pennsylvanians’ federal tax dollars.
With zero cost to the state for the first three years, there’s no reason to delay Medicaid expansion. Corbett can still negotiate with the federal government over his Medicaid privatization plan, while hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians get the health care coverage they need.
It’s important to understand who those uninsured Pennsylvanians are.
The vast majority of people who would receive coverage through Medicaid expansion are working men and women who either do not have health insurance provided by their employer, or they can’t afford it. We’re talking about restaurant workers, child care workers, cashiers, home health aides and many other hardworking Pennsylvanians.
They need health care coverage for themselves and their families. They cannot afford to wait.
Gov. Corbett should do the right thing for Pennsylvanians and say “yes” to true Medicaid expansion.
State Rep. Frank Dermody serves as Democratic leader of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. He represents the 33rd Legislative District in Allegheny County.