PA Senate to Vote on Medicaid Expansion

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports this morning that the state Senate plans to vote next week on a federal opportunity to expand Medicaid health coverage to hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) provides states with the opportunity to expand Medicaid, beginning in 2014, to adults with incomes up to 138% of the federal poverty line (roughly $32,000 for a family of four). The federal government will fully cover the cost for 2014, 2015, and 2016, and by 2020 it continues to fund 90% of the expansion.

Acting on this opportunity will create jobs, strengthen Pennsylvania’s economy, and make its citizens healthier and more financially stable. As the Inquirer reports, it could also help restore more state dollars to public education:

Sen. Vincent Hughes (D., Phila.), the Medicaid bill's sponsor, said word of the vote made him optimistic as he heads into weekend talks. "It's a big movement," he said.

Hughes said Medicaid expansion could help solve a seemingly unrelated crisis: funding for public schools in Philadelphia and other financially distressed districts. He said some of the $154 million the state spends on Medicaid coverage could be applied instead to education. ...

Three independent studies have concluded that Medicaid expansion would mean a net gain for Pennsylvania: billions in federal aid, reduction in the cost of uncompensated care in hospitals, the creation of thousands of jobs, and health coverage for as many as 600,000 now-uninsured Pennsylvanians.

The news of the Senate vote comes as the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center releases a new analysis showing that tens of thousands of Pennsylvania veterans—and their families—could gain health insurance if Pennsylvania expands Medicaid.

Despite having put their health and lives at risk while serving in the armed forces, 1.3 million U.S. veterans—including 47,000 here in Pennsylvania—lack health insurance. ... Almost half of the nation’s 1.3 million uninsured veterans would qualify for coverage if all states expand Medicaid eligibility.

Close to 23,000 Pennsylvania veterans without insurance and more than 10,000 of their uninsured family members could qualify for Medicaid coverage if the state expands. In addition, expanding Medicaid would mean that nearly 12,000 Pennsylvania veterans who currently depend solely on VA coverage could use Medicaid to supplement their VA benefits.

The report notes that 41% of uninsured veterans nationally report unmet medical needs, and nearly 34% report delaying care due to cost. One in three appear to have at least one chronic health condition.

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