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Pennsylvanians at Breaking Point Over Cuts and Delays in “Healthy PA” as CMS Comment Period Ends

Thousands oppose cuts and delays. Medicaid expansion is the best choice for taxpayers and uninsured workers.

HARRISBURG, PA — With the federal public comment period ending this week on the Corbett Administration’s Healthy PA proposal, Pennsylvanians delivered a loud and clear message to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid.

Antoinette Kraus, Director of the Pennsylvania Health Access Network and steering committee member for the Cover the Commonwealth Campaign made the following statement:

“Healthy PA is overly complex, overly complicated and unnecessary.  The best choice for Pennsylvania taxpayers and uninsured workers is to join all of our surrounding states by expanding Medicaid immediately.

The response has been overwhelming. People across the state have been sending emails, mail and comments with online tools to explain their opposition to Healthy Pa. Many of them are citing the proposed benefit cuts, eliminating medical assistance for people with disabilities, unaffordable premiums and delays in coverage to hundreds of thousands of uninsured workers.”

According to Jennine Miller Advocacy and Public Policy Director for ProjectHOME, a nonprofit organization in Philadelphia, more than 1,000 people submitted comments via email to CMS thought its website as part of the Cover the Commonwealth Campaign. And, as of Thursday morning, nearly 600 people had submitted responses through the CMS comment tool. According to an analysis by Community Legal Services of Philadelphia. 83 percent of those responses opposed Healthy PA.

The anonymous comments include:

Commenter # 520: “I work as hard as I can and take care of myself the best I can and MAWD has allowed me to do that. Please don’t let them take it away.”

Commenter #211: “Pennsylvania’s plan will discriminate against people with disabilities in a number of ways. The largest impact will be stopping people from receiving quality medical equipment, especially decent manual wheelchairs that will not damage the users’ shoulders, arms and back.”

Concerns about the Healthy PA proposal have been building since the plan was first announced in September. Earlier this week, hundreds of people attended a Cover the Commonwealth rally in the state Capitol to urge Gov. Tom Corbett and the Legislature to expand Medicaid while protecting the healthcare of current beneficiaries.

Mary Lou Camery, a home care attendant from Erie made the trek to Harrisburg on Monday to share her message with the Governor. “As one of the hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians who is in the Medicaid Gap I am at my breaking point. We need to move forward with Medicaid Expansion immediately so I can see a doctor.”

The concerns about Healthy PA provided in comments to CMS include:

  • Healthy PA slashes benefits for pregnant women, people with disabilities and seniors. In total, the plan would drastically limit access to a doctor or other needed healthcare services for more than 1.1 million Pennsylvanians. There is no need to cut benefits or access to healthcare. We save more by expanding.
  • Healthy PA eliminates a critically important program that helps people with disabilities to work and keep their healthcare they need. The state wants to end the Medical Assistance Benefits for Workers with Disabilities (MAWD) program even though the Department of Public Welfare’s website describes its benefits to people with dishabilles as “Now you do not have to choose between a job and your health.”
  •  Healthy PA imposes burdensome premiums that will make healthcare coverage unaffordable to low-income workers and vulnerable populations.  Workers earning as little as $12,000 a year in some cases will struggling to find an extra $25 or $35 in their monthly budgets for premium payments. Those who cannot afford the premiums will be denied coverage from a healthcare program intended to help them.
  • Without Medicaid expansion hundreds of thousands of workers are stuck in the coverage gap.  The failure to expand Medicaid on Jan. 1 has left thousands of families without coverage and trapped in the Pennsylvania Gap, including more than 60,000 veterans.  According to the U.S. Census, more than 75 percent of families in the gap have at least one full-time worker in the household.

The overwhelming response is clear Pennsylvania should have expanded Medicaid on Jan. 1 and it remains the best choice for the taxpayers and uninsured workers in this state. The continued delay is causing Pennsylvania to miss the opportunity to generate $522 million in state budget savings and starting to create 35,000 good paying jobs. Every state surrounding Pennsylvania has already indicated they will accept these funds to expand their Medicaid program.” Adding to the support, a new poll released this week by Public Policy Polling found a majority of Pennsylvanians, 59%, want Gov. Corbett to accept federal funding to expand healthcare through Medicaid.

For more information, contact Antoinette Kraus at akraus@pahealthaccess.org or at 267-971-1680, or Kevin Hensil at kh@seiupa.org or at 717.571.6578. 

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Cover the Commonwealth is a joint effort of more than 100 organizations working to ensure state policymakers accept federal funds allocated to extend Medicaid health coverage under the Affordable Care Act to hundreds of thousands of working Pennsylvanians.

Click here to view a list of campaign members.

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