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General Assembly Bill Targets PA Medicaid Recipients

House Bill 59 would impose work requirements and premiums on Medicaid recipients in Pennsylvania. (Jason Burmeister/Flickr)
House Bill 59 would impose work requirements and premiums on Medicaid recipients in Pennsylvania. (Jason Burmeister/Flickr)
July 12, 2017

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Fiscal analysts say a bill that could pass the General Assembly this week would force some Pennsylvanians off Medicaid.

An amendment buried in House Bill 59, one of the bills being considered to implement the state budget, would impose work requirements and add new premiums and co-pays for Medicaid recipients.

According to Marc Stier, director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, the legislation is based on an assumption that there are many able bodied people receiving benefits who don't deserve them, an assumption Stier says is just wrong.

"Our fear about this proposal is that it really is just a way to reduce caseloads by denying people who deserve Medicaid fair entry into the program," he states.

Supporters of the legislation say it would reduce the state's share of Medicaid expenses and help close the $2 billion gap in the state budget.

But Stier contends that the ongoing budget deficits are the result of years of tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. And now, rather than raising new revenue, he says legislators are cutting programs that help the most vulnerable.

"People who are disabled, children, seniors living in nursing homes, and people whose incomes are too low to enable them to purchase health insurance on the exchanges," he states.

The average income for individuals on Medicaid in Pennsylvania is about $500 a month.

The bill could clear both houses of the General Assembly this week, although Stier expects Gov. Tom Wolf to veto it if it reaches his desk.

"He made a point when he took office of rejecting Gov. (Tom) Corbett's Medicaid proposals, which were seeking to put on premiums and work requirements,” Stier points out. “He said no to that."

Stier adds that threatened cuts to Medicaid on the federal level would shift more costs to the state and leave 1.3 million more Pennsylvanians without health insurance.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA