Corbett to submit Medicaid waiver by March

Gov. Corbett said he will submit his plan for expanding Medicaid coverage by the end of the month.

Corbett said Friday he expects to ask the federal government in ten days to two weeks to approve the waiver that would allow the state to use federal funds to provide health insurance for hundreds of thousands of uninsured Pennsylvanians.

The governor said he expected the waiver to be "turned around pretty quickly" because state officials have been meeting regularly with federal officials at the Department of Health and Human Services.

But he said the approval is needed to change the way benefits are delivered in the Commonwealth which he views as too costly.

“We need to reform the entire Medicaid system that already exists before we do this other,” he said.

The news comes six months after Corbett unveiled his "Healthy PA" plan that seeks to transform the Medicaid program by instituting work search requirements,  imposing monthly premiums based on income and restructuring benefits.

While Arkansas, Iowa and most recently Michigan have received waivers that allow them to pursue alternative including monthly premiums. No other states have been granted a work search requirement for those receiving Medicaid.

Corbett released the draft waiver last month and since then has held public hearings and taken comment on it. The full proposal, public comments and other documents are available on the Healthy PA website.

Corbett told WITF radio that Pennsylvania's current Medicaid program is the second costliest in the country, averaging $7,400 per person. Other states spend about $5,400 per person, he said.

Had Pennsylvania opted in to full Medicaid expansion as 26 other states have done, benefits for 500,000 uninsured people would have begun in January. Now Corbett says if the waiver is approved to provide coverage through private insurers the program will not be available until Jan. 2015.

This stance has angered Democrats and others who say the state is forfeiting hundreds of millions in federal aide and denying hundreds of thousands of needy people health care. They also call the job search requirements punitive and charge that the benefits for all recipients will be reduced.

Under the Affordable Care Act the federal government since January has paid the full cost of Medicaid expansion for the first three years. That support decreases in later years.

Corbett said in the interview he does not have confidence the federal government would fulfill its promise to conntinue to pay at least 90 percent of the bill for the newly expanded Medicaid coverage,

"I doubt that's going to happen," said Corbett. He cited the federal government's past pledge to pay 50 percent of the cost of new mandates for special education and now cover only 17 to 18 percent.

Corbett is anticipating federal approval as part of his recently announced $29.4 billion budget in which Medicaid changes will save the state $125 million.Corbett said he anticipates federal approval before the state budget is approved by July 1.




Click here for's politics page.