By Melissa Daniels | PA IndependentGov. Tom Corbett this week plans an announcement about health-care coverage in Pennsylvania, his press office confirmed late Thursday. Talk of an expansion began stirring Thursday afternoon after a story from the Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era.
The story, citing unnamed sources, said Corbett “will accept federal funds to expand medical coverage to an estimated 682,000 more Pennsylvanians in a Medicaid-like program.”
Shortly thereafter, Lynn Lawson, Corbett’s director of communications, released a statement that leaves the door open for some type of health care proposal:
“Governor Corbett does not support growing an entitlement program as he has been very clear about the need for reform,” Lawson said in the email statement. “There are a number of interesting options to consider, and they are currently under review. The Governor will have more to say on this issue sometime next week.”
Few sources are going on the record about the announcement, and it’s not clear whether the legislative branch has been briefed on the matter.
Bill Patton, spokesman for the House Democrats, said the caucus doesn’t have details from the administration about the plan, but he’s looking forward to hearing what Corbett says.
“House Democrats believe that the best and simplest path, both for people’s health and for Pennsylvania’s economic health, is to accept the full federal funding and expand Medicaid coverage without adding conditions that might work to deny coverage to people,” Patton said in an email response to PA Independent.
Potential Corbett challengers, however, question his motives. By mid-morning Friday, two Democrats hoping to challenge Corbett in the November 2014 election fired off politically charged statements urging him to accept the Medicaid expansion, as Republican governors in Ohio and New Jersey have done.
U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, D-Pa., said Pennsylvania has the ability and a moral obligation to expand the program.
“The decision over whether to expand health-care coverage in our state should not be held hostage for unrelated political objectives,” she said. “It is time to stop questioning and start acting. Health-care coverage for hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians depends on it.”
John Hanger, a former Department of Environmental Protection secretary, also questioned Corbett’s political motives.
“On Monday we’ll see if Corbett has had a true conversion and will throw the Tea Party and Daryl Metcalfe under his campaign bus, or if this is just an election-year stunt. And stunts are completely inappropriate when the health of 700,000 uninsured Pennsylvanians is at stake,” Hanger said in a statement.
Corbett’s administration in the past year has said a Medicaid expansion can’t be worked into state’s already-tight budget.
His team has engaged in back-and-forth questioning with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Seblius, though, in an attempt to come up with some version of health-care coverage that may be more amenable to the fiscally conservative administration.
Statehouse Democrats, and a number of Republicans in the Senate, pushed for a Medicaid expansion during the June budget season. But the House GOP majority, where leadership shares the view of the Corbett administration, dismissed the attempts.
Under the Medicaid expansion outlined in the Affordable Care Act, the federal government will initially cover 100 percent of the expanded population’s coverage, decreasing to 90 percent by 2020.