Pennsylvania will soon become the 12th Republican-led state to expand its Medicaid program in accordance with the Affordable Care Act at a time when conservatives across the country are downplaying their opposition to the law.
On Thursday, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will announce that it had granted a waiver and reached agreement with the state to provide health care coverage to 500,000 low-income residents through private insurance. The waiver will make Pennsylvania the 27th state, plus the District of Columbia, to accept federal Medicaid dollars.
Pennsylvanians who work in fast food, retail, taxi and limo driving, cleaning and housekeeping, and construction are most likely to benefit from the coverage expansion, a recent report from the health care advocacy group Families USA estimates.
News of the agreement also comes as Republican governors who are expanding their Medicaid programs up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line are registering higher poll numbers than those who do not. A recent poll has found that Gov. Tom Corbett (R-PA) trails Democratic challenger Tom Wolf by 25 percentage points. Meanwhile, 59 percent of Pennsylvania voters back Medicaid expansion, according to data from Public Policy Polling.
Hospitals and health care professionals have also lobbied Corbett to grow the state Medicaid program, pointing to health care centers across the country that have been forced to shut down due to an influx of uninsured patients who cannot pay for medical care. Meanwhile, hospitals located in five Medicaid expansion states have seen uninsured and charity admissions decline by more than 50 percent.
Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government will fully fund Medicaid expansion until 2016 and will pick up more than 90 percent of the cost thereafter. Analysis from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has concluded that for every dollar the state spends on Medicaid expansion it receives $13.41 in federal funding.
Several governors are working with the federal government to secure expansion arrangements, including the GOP-led state of Wyoming.
CMS is providing more details about the waiver. Under the agreement, adults with incomes above 100 percent of the federal poverty line will pay premiums that shall not exceed 2 percent of household income beginning in 2016. Individuals below the federal poverty line will not be charged premiums. The state will use its existing managed care health plans to provide coverage and will have to comply with the benefit requirements spelled out in the health care law. It will also be unable to impose work requirements on beneficiaries or lockout people who miss premium payments from coverage, as Corbett had initially proposed.