The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

April 6, 2013

A deal too good to pass up


Daily Item

---- — For a fiscal conservative, Gov. Tom Corbett apparently feels free to throw money away when it suits his goal of placing government functions into private hands.

On Wednesday, the governor said he wanted to provide health care to hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians by using federal Medicaid dollars to buy private insurance, as are three other states.

So what's wrong with private insurance?

It's more expensive -- 33 percent more expensive.

A report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office last summer said health plans on the private insurance market would cost an estimated $9,000, while traditional Medicaid coverage would cost $6,000. It's not clear who would have to pay the extra $3,000.

Corbett, a Republican, has been an opponent of the Affordable Care Act since his days as Pennsylvania's attorney general when he joined an unsuccessful lawsuit to strike down the act. He has said he will not support the expansion in Medicaid coverage in Pennsylvania without substantial changes to the program because he is worried about the long-term cost to taxpayers.

Corbett is under pressure to go along with a Medicaid expansion. Hospitals executives, top Democratic lawmakers, labor unions, the AARP, religious leaders and advocates for the poor are in favor of it.

According to The Associated Press, an expansion would be likely to get approval in the Republican-controlled Legislature, if a bill were introduced. Only 37 of 203 Republicans lawmakers in House are co-sponsoring a bill that would prohibit a Medicaid expansion. To approve an expansion, just 11 House Republicans and three in the 50-member Senate would be needed to join with Democrats to vote yes.

The Affordable Care Act promises the federal government will pay for 100 percent of the newly eligible Medicaid enrollees for the first three years of an expansion, beginning in 2014, and phase down to 90 percent after that.

That's too good a deal to pass up, regardless of the governor's philosophical reservations. Right now, every adult in the commonwealth knows someone who is ignoring a potentially dangerous health condition, skipping the purchase of a prescription medicine or choosing between a trip to the doctor's office and paying the rent because they can't afford health insurance.

Gov. Corbett might not like expanding Medicaid on the federal government's terms, but it is the fastest and least expensive way to help those who desperately need health care coverage. It's time for him to accept that.