Medicaid expansion blocked by Pennsylvania House


MEDICAID EXPANSION – Uninsured Pennsylvanians descended on Representative Mike Turzai’s office.


On July 3, a group of uninsured Pittsburgh residents held a demonstration outside of House Majority Leader Mike Turzai’s office to decry the House of Representatives’ actions to block the expansion of Medicaid in Pennsylvania. The group of demonstrators from Faces of Medicaid called on Turzai (R-Allegheny) to offer an alternative to the federally funded expansion they say would provide coverage for thousands of Pennsylvanians.

“Yesterday was a shameful day in Harrisburg,” said Jason Weatherly, an uninsured full-time employee from Homewood. “It is disgusting that lawmakers like Mike Turzai think it is ok to play politics with our lives. We put him in office and we will make sure he understands he is accountable to us, the voters.”   

According to the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, Medicaid expansion would make approximately 700,000 eligible for insurance. While the Senate passed legislation including the expansion by a vote of 40 to 10, the House removed Medicaid expansion language from the legislation that was ultimately passed and sent to Governor Tom Corbett.

“Failure to enact Medicaid Expansion comes with a steep cost for Pennsylvania taxpayers, hospitals, and working families. By rejecting new Federal funding to expand Medicaid, lawmakers in the House have chosen to kill 40,000 family-sustaining jobs, eliminate health insurance for hundreds of thousands of hardworking Pennsylvanians, and increase the financial burden of caring for the uninsured on our state’s hospitals,” said Antoinette Kraus, director of the Pennsylvania Health Access Network, in a statement. “Failure to enact Medicaid Expansion will raise taxes on all Pennsylvanians, who will continue footing the cost of a system that allows too many people to fall through the cracks.”

Now Pennsylvanians will have to wait several months before they get another chance to have Medicaid expanded. In the meantime, activists like those with Faces of Medicaid, will continue to educate the public on how an expansion would impact them.

According to a report by the Urban Institute the expansion of Medicaid could substantially reduce disparities in health insurance coverage between Black and White Americans. In Pennsylvania, the report determined that 18 percent of those who would gain insurance would be African-American.

Under the Affordable Care Act, beginning in 2014 Medicaid would provide coverage to those earning up to 138 percent of the poverty threshold. This will equal to approximately $15,900 for an individual and $32,400 for a family of four in 2014.

As a result of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act, each state is allowed to opt-out of Medicaid expansion. As of last month, 26 states were participating and 13 had opted out.

The other 11 states haven’t decided yet.

Opponents of the expansion worry about the cost of expanding Medicaid after the $43 billion in federal funding is reduced. The federal government has promised to pay for 100 percent of the expansion for the first three years, and incrementally reduce its share of funding to 90 percent by 2020.


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