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Policy: Entitlements

Pennsylvania's Gov. Tom Corbett to lay out his position on Medicaid

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Associated Press,Health Care,Entitlements,Tom Corbett,Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Gov. Tom Corbett will start a three-day tour Monday to lay out his plans to improve health care and reveal the conditions under which he would accept additional Medicaid dollars under the sweeping federal health care law designed to provide insurance to more working poor.

A key condition for Corbett will be an idea being explored by some other states — using the Medicaid dollars to buy private insurance policies instead of expanding government rolls — where Republicans are wary of expanding traditional Medicaid coverage.

The announcement arrives after months of Corbett aides pressing the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to accept the governor's terms to join the Medicaid expansion, a major element of President Barack Obama's signature 2010 law.

Corbett, a Republican who sued unsuccessfully to overturn the federal law, is a critic of Medicaid, saying it is bloated and costly, and his aides insist that the forthcoming proposal will not amount to an expansion of Medicaid's enrollment.

"Gov. Corbett does not support growing an entitlement program as he has been very clear about the need for reform," spokeswoman Lynn Lawson said Friday. Lawson did not give details about the forthcoming plan or reveal where Corbett will stop on the tour.

But three people who are familiar with the plan said Corbett's conditions to accept the money reflect ideas that administration officials have publicly discussed in recent months. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because they did not want to be named revealing details of his plan before Corbett announces it.

For states that participate in the Medicaid expansion, the extra federal money becomes available Jan. 1.

However, it is not yet clear whether the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will agree to Corbett's conditions, and the Corbett administration has yet to submit an official request for approval. In addition, Corbett's public welfare secretary, Beverly Mackereth, has said previously that the administration will probably need until 2015 to negotiate and prepare for a Medicaid expansion plan.

The conditions Corbett will lay out include allowing Pennsylvania to use the new federal Medicaid dollars to help adults who are eligible under the expanding income guidelines to buy private health insurance on the online exchanges that open Jan. 1, the people familiar with the plan said.

Corbett also wants to require the enrollees to share the cost, for instance by paying a premium that is a percentage of their income, they said.

But first, Corbett will insist that the Obama administration approve changes to Pennsylvania's existing Medicaid program for working-age adults, they said. For instance, he wants to require low-income, working-age adults already on Medicaid — including pregnant women, parents and people with disabling conditions — to search for work and pay a premium, they said.

Besides Medicaid, Corbett will take on the issues of children's health care and access to physicians.

He will propose improvements to the Children's Health Insurance Program, including eliminating a six-month waiting period before a child can get coverage, as a way to close the gap of an estimated 150,000 children in Pennsylvania who lack health care. And he will also propose new ways to persuade medical school graduates to practice in areas of Pennsylvania that are in need of more family doctors, they said.

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