Data used to push for Medicaid expansion in Pa.
Ben Allen, WITF General Assignment Reporter | 08.04.14
As the state waits to hear whether Governor Corbett's Medicaid waiver application is approved, two groups are pushing new data showing the benefits of expansion.
The data, assembled by two pro-Medicaid expansion groups, shows about 40,000 restaurant and fast food workers, 33,000 cashiers and sales people could get health care coverage if the state expanded Medicaid outright.
The groups, Families U.S.A. and Pennsylvania Health Care Access Network, have long pushed Governor Corbett on the issue.
In total, about 481,000 state residents who don't have health insurance would get coverage.
Dee Mahan, Medicaid Director for Families U.S.A., says cost concerns shouldn't hold Governor Corbett or legislators back.
"If the state finds out, after you embark on this, that this is not a good deal for Pennsylvania, you don't have to continue the program. There's always an option to step back."
One estimate has put the cost of expansion in Pennsylvania at $180 million through 2020.
The federal government would cover the full cost of expansion through 2016, gradually reducing its subsidy to 90 percent in 2020.
"Having a healthier workforce is good for all of the sectors of the economy, where these people work. And you think about food service workers, you really want healthy people handling your food and things like that," says Mahan.
Kait Gillis with the Department of Public Welfare says if Medicaid were expanded, it wouldn't be possible to make changes quickly because of the complexity of the system.
Governor Corbett submitted a request for a Medicaid waiver to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in February, and a decision is "extremely close" says Gillis. The waiver would allow the state to use money earmarked for Medicaid to buy private insurance for those making up to 138% of the federal poverty line.