It makes sense
In its steadfast political opposition to "Obamacare," the Corbett administration blundered by not expanding Medicaid as a principal means to provide health care coverage to the uninsured.
So far, according to a calculation by Families USA and the Pennsylvania Health Access Network, which advocate the expansion, the state's rejection of it has forfeited about $5.1 billion in statewide economic activity that would have been generated this year by the infusion of federal health care money.
Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government will pay 100 percent of the cost of Medicaid expansion through 2016. After that, the federal percentage gradually will decline to 90 percent in 2020, where it will remain. So the state continues to preclude coverage for about 480,000 Pennsylvanians at no cost for three years, no more than 10 percent of the cost thereafter.
Families USA and the Pennsylvania Health Access Network also have published a study demonstrating that the vast majority of people who would qualify for coverage under Medicaid coverage are low-income workers, often in sectors important to the economy, who cannot afford to buy coverage on their own.
Of 481,000 Pennsylvanians who would be eligible for coverage, 59 percent, or 285,000, are employed full-time. Another 22 percent, about 105,000, are students, people with disabilities, non-working spouses and jobless people who do not qualify for unemployment compensation.
Ironically, about 12,000 of the uninsured workers are in health-care occupations. They include nursing aides, home health aides and dental assistants. Another 16,000 work in personal care, a category that includes child care workers and personal care aides.
According to the report: 40,000 work in the food service industry; 33,000 work in administrative support, including hotel and office clerks; 31,000 work in transportation jobs, including bus and taxi drivers and parking attendants; 25,000 work in cleaning and maintenance, including housekeepers, janitors and landscapers; 23,000 work in construction; 23,000 work in production services, including butchers, tailors and laundry workers.
None of those people are immune to illness. And many of them work in dangerous jobs. When they are sick or injured, the costs fall on health care providers and are passed on to taxpayers and consumers through higher insurance premiums.
It makes far more sense for the state to provide the coverage through Medicaid, especially since the bill will be paid primarily at the federal level. The Legislature, having watched the dollars flow to other states for a year, should ensure that Pennsylvania gets its share while improving access to health care.