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Budget Crisis Demands Pennsylvania Expand Medicaid Immediately

With the budget deadline looming, expansion saves $400 million, increases healthcare access to 500,000 working people.

HARRISBURG – With the state budget deadline looming a little more than one week away and Governor Tom Corbett reportedly unable to make progress on closing the $1.5 billion budget shortfall, the Legislature should seize this opportunity to expand Medicaid to bring immediately budget relief and increase healthcare access to uninsured working families.

“Medicaid expansion passed the Senate last June and it’s time to finish the job,” said Neal Bisno, President of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania. “Joining all of our surrounding states in expanding Medicaid is a win-win for Pennsylvania. It proves $400 million in budget savings and will allow 500,000 uninsured people to finally get the healthcare they need and deserve.”

Bisno said expanding Medicaid now is gaining support in the Legislature. Earlier this month the House Human Services Committee approved House Bill 1492 with bipartisan support. The legislation allows the state to immediately expand coverage to 500,000 uninsured Pennsylvanians while the federal government reviews the governor’s Healthy Pennsylvania alternative.

Medicaid expansion legislation passed the state Senate in June 2013 that would have made coverage available on January 1, 2014. However, the governor and House Republicans blocked the proposal, preventing hundreds of thousands of low-income workers from having coverage today. No one should be denied the care they need, when they need it.

“Failing to expand Medicaid is costing this state millions of dollars a day and contributing to the growing state budget deficit,” said Bisno. “If Governor Corbett is serious about fiscal responsibility then he will allow Medicaid expansion to provide $400 million in budget savings.

“To make matters worse, the governor’s refusal to expand Medicaid is forcing Pennsylvania to fall behind. All of our surrounding states are accepting federal funds to expand healthcare for their citizens, making Pennsylvania an island of the uninsured.

“It’s time Governor Corbett follow the example of conservative governors like Chris Christie in New Jersey and John Kasich in allowing hardworking families to finally have the security of seeing a doctor when they get sick.”

Bisno said state leaders must not fill the budget hole – which the governor created with more than $1 billion in corporate tax breaks– with another round of budget cuts and layoffs. Pennsylvania’s working families have sacrificed enough.

In addition to the budget relief offered by Medicaid expansion, the governor and Legislature should make Marcellus Shale drillers pay their fair share on the amount of natural gas they extract from our land, as well as ending the special tax breaks and giveaways of taxpayer dollars to corporate interests.

The deadline for the governor to sign a balanced budget is June 30.

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SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania is the state’s largest and fastest growing union of health care workers, representing 25,000 nurses, technicians, nursing assistants, and support staff in hospitals, nursing homes and public institutions across the Commonwealth. SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania is committed to improving the lives of health care workers and ensuring quality, affordable health care for all Pennsylvanians.

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