Penny-wise, pound foolish
One of the Corbett administration's first acts upon taking office in 2011 was to dismantle adultBasic. The health insurance program used a combination of money from the tobacco settlement fund and contributions from tax-exempt Blue Cross health insurers to provide low-cost basic coverage, mostly for low-income workers, including many people in Bradford County, who earned too much to qualify for Medicaid but could not afford market-rate private coverage.
Very few of the 42,000 people who lost coverage were able to replace it with the higher-cost, lower coverage options that insurers offered as replacements for adultBasic.
Now the administration has discovered that neglect works as well as activism in shredding aspects of the health coverage safety net.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Tuesday that, since the beginning of the Corbett administration in 2011, 93,000 have lost their coverage under the Children's Health Insurance Program and Medicaid.
CHIP was created in 1992 by then-Gov. Robert P. Casey, using dedicated revenue from the cigarette tax. It quickly became a national model and the template for a similar federal program.
The program is important in many ways, beginning with ensuring that kids have basic insurance coverage to ensure treatment when they're sick. But studies show that coverage helps to prevent illness by ensuring access to preventive care, and to save money through early intervention.
This isn't a case of actively trimming the rolls but of quietly failing to fill them. The administration has stopped funding marketing to families with children to make them aware of the program (Gov. Tom Corbett's proposed budget would restore some of those funds), and has created a massive backlog of Medicaid case reviews.
This is a case of penny-wise, pound-foolish. Tricia Brooksof the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, told the Inquirer that New Jersey, which runs its program like Pennsylvania once did, has qualified for more than $50 million in federal performance bonuses. If much larger Pennsylvania did likewise, it would be eligible for more than $100 million per year.
Mr. Corbett, meanwhile, went to Washington this week to discuss his decision to reject an expansion of Medicaid under the new federal health care law, which would result in even more Pennsylvania children losing coverage while federal taxpayers in the state contribute to coverage for children elsewhere.
The administration often attends to vital interests. They should make children's health care a priority.