By Amal Bass, WLP Staff Attorney
Instead of expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, as all of Pennsylvania’s neighboring states have done, the Corbett Administration has proposed a different plan in its Healthy Pennsylvania 1115 Application (“Healthy Pennsylvania Proposal), which it claims will extend health care coverage to 500,000 uninsured adults. On Monday, January 13, 2014, Carol E. Tracy and Tara R. Pfeifer of the Women’s Law Project (WLP) submitted comments on this proposal to Secretary Beverly Mackereth of the Department of Public Welfare (DPW).
In its comments, WLP urged Governor Corbett to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act rather than pursue the Healthy Pennsylvania Proposal. If implemented, the Governor’s proposed plan will negatively affect women, who make up a large percentage of Pennsylvania’s low-income population. The concerning aspects of this proposal include:
- A Premium Requirement That Will Make Health Care Inaccessible.
The Healthy Pennsylvania Proposal would impose a premium on individuals who make as little as $479 per month. This requirement would be burdensome for low-income Pennsylvanians, many of whom are women, and would likely result in loss of coverage.
- Cuts to Health Care Benefits for the 1.2 Million Individuals Currently on Medicaid.
The Healthy Pennsylvania Proposal places Medicaid recipients onto high risk or low-risk plans, both of which provide dramatically less coverage than what is available right now.
- A Work Search Requirement That Creates Unnecessary, Costly, and Burdensome Obstacles to Obtaining Health Care.
The Healthy Pennsylvania Proposal requires all newly eligible and many existing Medicaid recipients to prove that they applied for 12 jobs each month, even though the majority of people in need of Medicaid expansion are already working and the additional burden would be especially difficult for many Pennsylvanians currently on Medicaid, such as individuals with disabilities. Those who are unable to prove that they have met this requirement face severe consequences, including a lockout of coverage for up to nine months.
- Severely Limited Access to Women’s Health Services
The Healthy Pennsylvania Proposal seeks to (a) exclude coverage for family planning services, (b) prohibit the ability of Medicaid enrollees to choose the provider of family planning services, and (c) prevent access to robust provider networks by allowing enrollment in private plans offered outside of the Marketplace.
- An Implied End to SelectPlan for Women
The Healthy Pennsylvania Proposal does not explicitly state that Pennsylvania plans to end SelectPlan for Women; however, the threat is apparent. SelectPlan has extended coverage for Medicaid to uninsured women between 18 and 44 years of age whose incomes are below 185% of the federal poverty line since 2008, and it should be continued beyond its June 2014 expiration date.
Pennsylvania, which ranks 32nd out of 50 states regarding the status of women’s health, must do better to improve its citizen’s access to health care. To do so, Pennsylvania must shelve its flawed Healthy Pennsylvania Proposal and instead expand Medicaid.
For more information on each of these points, see WLP’s comments.
Also, for more information on poverty and women’s health, see the Women’s Law Project’s report, Through the Lens of Equality: Eliminating Sex Bias to Improve the Health of Pennsylvania’s Women.