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Governor’s Meeting with HHS Secretary Is Positive Step Toward PA Medicaid Expansion

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Governor’s Meeting with Secretary Sebelius Represents Positive Step Toward State Medicaid Expansion

Officials Urged to Reach Agreement Allowing Pennsylvania to Join 25 States Expanding Medicaid

 AARP Pennsylvania applauded Governor Tom Corbett’s meeting Tuesday evening with U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius to discuss expanding the state’s Medicaid program, and encouraged officials to find a solution that will help the state extend health coverage for more than 500,000 uninsured residents.   

To this point, Governor Corbett’s 2013-14 state budget does not include the expansion of Medicaid eligibility to residents with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level as set forth in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Governor has stated publicly that the purpose of his meeting with Secretary Sebelius was to explore meaningful reforms and program flexibility he believes are necessary before his administration can fully support Medicaid expansion in Pennsylvania.   

“We are very pleased that these two leaders are talking about ways Pennsylvania can join the 25 other states that are moving forward to expand Medicaid,” said AARP Pennsylvania State President Jim Palmquist. “AARP believes everyone should have access to affordable health care, especially those who have lost jobs, are struggling to find new ones or can't secure affordable health coverage.”

By expanding Medicaid, Pennsylvania can help those who have lost their health insurance receive coverage if their incomes are less than $15,000 (133 percent of the federal poverty level). For the first three years beginning in 2014, the federal government will pay the entire cost of the state’s Medicaid expansion, with the government’s match rate gradually dropping beginning in 2017, decreasing to 90 percent in 2020 and thereafter. 

Agreeing to Medicaid expansion means Pennsylvania would extend health care coverage to an estimated 542,000 uninsured residents by 2022 at no cost to the state for the first three years and no more than 10 percent of the cost in the future. Pennsylvania taxpayers will also realize savings due to Medicaid expansion because the need for other medical programs that are currently paid for entirely by the state, like mental health services, will be reduced. 

“Expanding Medicaid makes sense both for the health of Pennsylvania residents and for the state budget,” said Palmquist. “An expanded Medicaid program will greatly improve access to health care coverage for hard-working people who desperately need it, and infuse the state’s economy with hundreds of millions of dollars.” 

Palmquist said Medicaid expansion is particularly important to individuals who are over age 50 and not yet eligible for Medicare. These middle-aged adults are more likely to face the onset of health conditions that if left untreated could inevitably increase their need for health and long-term care. AARP estimates Medicaid expansion would provide coverage to more than 90,000 50 to 64 year-old Pennsylvania residents.

“If Pennsylvania chooses not to expand Medicaid, the state will be creating a significant coverage gap for the poorest individuals and families,” said Palmquist. “AARP supports the expansion of Medicaid for Pennsylvania because access to affordable health care should not depend on where you live.”

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