Pa. official: ending Medicaid expansion could cost state $421 million a year
Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | 02.16.17
(Harrisburg) -- State officials say repealing the Affordable Care Act without a robust replacement will not only leave 700,000 low-income people without Medicaid coverage, but could also add to the state's financial problems.
Pennsylvania's program covered very low-income people who were temporarily or permanently disabled, caretakers of children, and victims of domestic violence.
But when Governor Tom Wolf decided to expand Medicaid in early 2015 as part of the Affordable Care Act, the state was able to shift most of the cost of health care for some 70,000 people to the federal government.
However, if Republicans repeal the ACA and leave Medicaid expansion out of any replacement, Human Services Secretary Ted Dallas says state law mandates it cover those people once again.
And by its estimates, that would cost the state at least another $421 million a year.
"We have a tendency in Harrisburg to focus on budget numbers, and talk about things like they're just numbers on a spreadsheet, but the most important thing for me is behind every one of those numbers, there's a human being. There's a mother, a father, a child. Someone that someone else depends on," says Dallas.
"Folks will start showing up in the emergency room even more where the care is the most expensive. And for those folks who were getting substance use disorder services even before the Medicaid expansion through General Assistance, you could have potentially life-threatening consequences for those folks."
Under Medicaid expansion, the state has to cover 10 percent of costs starting in 2020, but Dallas says that figure won't approach the savings it's seen in the past couple of years.
Who was covered by Pennsylvania's program?
All people eligible had to make less than $205/month in countable income. Their resources could not exceed $250. They also had to meet at least one of the following criteria:
· 18-20 years old and in secondary school expected to graduate by age 21
· Children under the age of 21 not eligible for TANF
· In a two-parent household with children under 13; or 13 and older and disabled
· Temporarily disabled
· Permanently disabled
· Non-parental caretakers of children under 13; or 13 and older and disabled
· Undergoing drug and alcohol treatment that precludes employment (limited to 9 months in a lifetime)
· A pregnant woman not eligible for TANF
· A victim of domestic violence ((limited to 9 months in a lifetime)