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March 1, 2013 | By | Posted in WatchBlog

WATCHBLOG: Corbett to speak with HHS on Medicaid expansion

By Melissa Daniels | PA Independent

AT THIS TIME: When Gov. Tom Corbett gave his Feb. 5 budget address, he said he could not recommend the expansion of Medicaid. But he recently said he plans to meet with federal officials on the matter, while GOP state senators are looking into the details of expansion.

AT THIS TIME: When Gov. Tom Corbett gave his Feb. 5 budget address, he said he could not recommend the expansion of Medicaid. But he recently said he plans to meet with federal officials on the matter, while GOP state senators are looking into the details of expansion.

HARRISBURG – After Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey announced his state would accept the federal Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, many eyes turned westward.

Will Gov. Tom Corbett, a fellow northeast Republican, follow suit?

For months Corbett has said the expansion would be too costly for Pennsylvania, citing a $4 billion figure through 2021. The governor has also said the rules for the expansion are not clear, or too inflexible, for the state to take on. His administration sent multiple letters to the federal government requesting information that Corbett has said was not responded to.

And, in his Feb. 5, budget address, Corbett said he could not support the expansion “at this time.” This sealed the deal for many, who considered the statements a rejection.

As the saying goes, time can change everything.

Corbett told reporters in Harrisburg Wednesday that he’ll soon meet with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to discuss the concept.

For proponents of the expansion, this means the door is still open for Pennsylvania to take part, as eight other GOP-led states have done.

Politico’s Kyle Cheney examined Corbett’s place in the national and political landscapes:

“The ingredients for a change of heart are in place: Pennsylvania lies between the bright-blue Northeast and the blue-collar Rust Belt. Five of six bordering state governors — including Kasich and Christie — are on board with expansion, and the sixth, West Virginia, is likely to opt in soon…

…Not to mention, Corbett’s favorability rating is bleak halfway through his term. Contenders are lining up to run against him. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, one of Obamacare’s biggest congressional allies, is a prospective candidate.”

THE JERSEY FACTOR: Republican Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey accepted the Medicaid expansion for the Garden State this week.

THE JERSEY FACTOR: Republican Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey accepted the Medicaid expansion for the Garden State this week.

Pennsylvanian proponents explain how joining the expansion is too good an opportunity to pass up, as it would bring in billions of federal dollars a year – as much as $43 billion in the next decade, according to the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center.

The federal government will pay 100 percent of expansion costs in the first three years, then drop down to 90 percent.

And anywhere between 500,000 to 800,000 residents would get Medicaid coverage, based on varying estimates.

Leading Democrat lawmakers like Senate Appropriations Chair Vincent Hughes, D-Philadelphia, brought up the expansion during state budget hearings over the last two weeks, asking the administration to produce its numbers on how much the actual cost to the state would be.

Corbett’s also facing recent interest on the matter from GOP lawmakers, including support from House Human Services Chairman Rep. Gene DiGirolamo, R-Bucks.

Senate Republicans will begin their own review of the expansion, as reported by Capitolwire Bureau Chief Peter L. DeCoursey:

 “[Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jake] Corman, R-Centre, said that “many members” of the Senate’s 27-member Republican majority “have a lot of interest in this issue, and my staff, working with Sen. Vance and other senators, are working on this issue, to get the information our caucus needs to have a full discussion and come to a decision.”

Some House Republicans, though, are critical of the recent swell of support or interest in the expansion, calling Corbett’s hesitation “sound” and federal funding promises “dubious.”

Six issued an open letter to Corbett about it on Friday.

“We again congratulate Governor Corbett on his decision to reject the ill-advised Medicaid expansion and encourage him to remain strong,” said the statement. “If Governor Corbett doesn’t stand up for Pennsylvania’s silent majority, the men and women who work to support their families and pay taxes, who will?”

Other pieces of the law beyond the state’s control are already affecting residents, according to Insurance Commissioner Michael Consedine. He said at a budget hearing this week the cost health insurance for young and mostly healthy people would rise.

Contact Melissa Daniels at melissa@paindependent.com

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Melissa Daniels is a reporter for PA Independent. She can be reached at 717-350-0962 or Melissa@PAIndependent.com

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