Pragmatism trumps politics
The federal government's approval of Pennsylvania's Medicaid expansion proposal assures better health care access for low-income state residents.
The Department of Health and Human Services last week accepted Gov. Tom Corbett's plan to use federal money to pay private companies to provide health coverage to uninsured people. Many work in low-paying jobs and about 600,000 Pennsylvanians could benefit from the expansion, which is scheduled to take effectJan. 1.
The federal government will pay all of the cost for the expansion through 2016 and at least 90 percent after that.
Mr. Corbett refused to expand Medicaid initially as part of nearly universal Republican opposition to the Affordable Care Act.
He altered his resistance last September after coming under fire from a broad coalition supporting expansion, including hospitals and health care professionals, organized labor and advocates for the poor.
His original proposal was severe and included cuts to existing Medicaid services. Some of the most burdensome elements of his original plan were dropped or modified in the final version, including a work-search requirement.
The state already has forfeited $4.8 million daily in federal health care funding since January because of the delay in Medicaid expansion, according to the Pennsylvania Health Access Network, an advocacy group.
Broader Medicaid coverage will assist state hospitals and other health care facilities by reducing uncompensated care. Unpaid hospital care in the state totaled $1.04 billion in fiscal 2013, according to the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council.
Medicaid improves health by providing access to primary and preventive medical treatment, numerous studies show.
So, the Medicaid expansion should lead to better health outcomes for low-income Pennsylvanians and help stabilize the bottom line financially for hospitals.
Mr. Corbett has never been a proponent of publicly subsidized health insurance for the needy. After taking office in 2011, his first act as governor was to eliminate AdultBasic, a state-sponsored, bare-bones health insurance vehicle for the working poor.
Pennsylvania's Medicaid expansion, though, proves pragmatism trumps politics on an important public health matter.