Medicaid Funding Nears Agreement

by Pat Nemetch, President APRN, Member, PA State AARP Long Term
Care Committee

The arrival of warm spring sunshine and blooming flowers are
delivering once again a real sense of hope and renewal-at least
in my yard. I hope it’s the same where you live as well.

My optimistic attitude is a sure sign of spring that needs to
reach Harrisburg, where our elected officials are currently
considering having Pennsylvania join 23 other states that have
agreed to accept federal funding to increase Medicaid
eligibility–providing essential health coverage for more than
500,000 uninsured state residents.

Across our state there are so many men, women, and families
without health coverage who are trying to somehow make ends meet
on individual incomes of less than $15,000 a year. They may have
lost their jobs and are now struggling to find new ones. In many
cases, they are working in jobs without health benefits.

They are likely foregoing preventative health care that can save
lives and can reduce the need for expensive emergency room care,
which contributes to dangerous ER overcrowding and costs that
affect us all.

Medicaid expansion will provide access to health care coverage
for people who desperately need it, and will also infuse the
commonwealth’s economy with hundreds of millions of dollars.
That’s because the federal government will pay the cost of the
Pennsylvania’s Medicaid expansion for three years beginning in
2014. After that, the federal contribution will still be 90
percent.

This issue of access to health coverage is particularly critical
for those who are over age 50 and not yet eligible for Medicare,
which provides health coverage at age 65. When people 50-64 lose
their jobs, they are likely to be out of work longer than others.
Being uninsured at middle age means facing the possible onset of
chronic conditions without necessary treatments – leading
inevitably to an increased need for the very services the
individual cannot afford.

Those without health insurance are likely foregoing preventative
health care that can save lives and can reduce the need for
expensive emergency room care, which contributes to dangerous ER
overcrowding and costs that affect us all. Providing these men,
women, and families with the opportunity to get affordable health
coverage by expanding Medicaid will change that bleak picture. In
Pennsylvania alone, more than 90,000 residents age 50 to 64
years-old could qualify for health coverage under this
expansion.

At this point, Gov. Corbett has not included Medicaid expansion
in his state budget proposal, and has met with U.S. Secretary of
Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius to discuss
“meaningful reforms and program flexibility” that the governor
indicates are necessary before he can fully support the expansion
in Pennsylvania. At the same time bipartisan support for Medicaid
expansion is growing in the state legislature.

I encourage each of you to contact your elected representatives
in Harrisburg and urge them to support the expansion in
Pennsylvania so our state can join neighbors in New Jersey, Ohio,
New York, Maryland and Delaware who have already agreed to
increase Medicaid eligibility. AARP and many other organizations
support the expansion because they believe access to affordable
health care should not depend on where you live.

I wish a Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers and grandmothers. Be
sure to get out and enjoy the warm weather.

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