Affordable Care Act, Health Policy, Health Reform, Inequality, Medicaid, Pennsylvania, Social Determinants of Health, Uncategorized

Pennsylvania Lawmakers Move Forward with Medicaid Work Requirements

On April 16th the Pennsylvania House of Representatives voted to pass House Bill 2138 providing work requirements as a condition of receiving Medical Assistance (Pennsylvania’s Medicaid program). This bill is one of several currently making their way through the Pennsylvania legislature that would detrimentally affect low-income families and children, cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars to implement, and generally serve no valid public interest other than to deter individuals who need life saving benefits from getting them.

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House Bill 2138 mandates that Medical Assistance enrollees must work 20 hours per week or complete twelve “job training program-related activities” per month in order to maintain the benefit. Individuals who fail to comply with this requirement will lose their eligibility for three months initially, then six months, and then nine months. Individuals who are 19 years and older must verify compliance with the work requirements on a biannual basis and by request from the State. Furthermore, the State can delay enrollment if the individual is found to have failed to comply with these requirements.

Certain populations are exempt from the work requirements including: full-time high school students; individuals receiving temporary or long-term disability benefits; individuals under 18 years of age and 65 and over; pregnant women; individuals receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI); primary caregivers for dependents six years of age or younger; and primary caregivers for individuals who are permanently disabled or in hospice care. Additionally, individuals who are experiencing a crisis, serious medical condition, or temporary condition that prevents the enrollee from actively seeking employment, including domestic violence and substance use disorder, are exempt.

The process in which individuals seeking exemption must participate in, including paperwork and verification requirements, is unclear based on the bill alone; however, the current Secretary of Human Services, Teresa Miller, reported that it would cost $650 million and an additional 300 staff members to enact these changes in her department. Now that the bill has passed the House, it moves on to the Pennsylvania Senate for a vote.

Policy experts find that work requirements harm families and individuals who are already working the most. Moreover, work requirements rarely lead to additional employment, but often lead to disenrollment, stripping vulnerable individuals of critical benefits and services. One study found, “four to five years after such requirements were implemented, about 70 percent of the welfare recipients who went off welfare because of work requirements had no income, or had income at or below 50 percent of the poverty line.”

Since the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) changed its policy on work requirements in January 2018, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Indiana have had Medicaid waivers approved that include work requirements. Pennsylvania is among several other states in the process of establishing a pathway for work requirements.

It is critical that Pennsylvania residents and residents of other states seeking to implement these changes reach out to their elected officials urging them to stop their assault on poor families. The Pennsylvania Health Access Network has an easy form to find your State Senator and submit a letter urging her or him to vote NO on work requirements.

*This article was cross-posted on http://www.helpmlp.org.

Affordable Care Act, Education, Health Reform, Medicaid, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Uncategorized

Affordable Care Act (ACA) Education & Outreach

This weekend I had the opportunity to discuss the Affordable Care Act (ACA) with Pennsylvania Senator Vincent Hughes and Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health & Intellectual disABILITY Services Commissioner Arthur Evans on Philadelphia radio show Philly Speaks on 100.3 FM. The show gave us a chance to demystify “Obamacare” and what it really means for individuals. A few of the key messages that were expressed include:

  • Getting insurance coverage is essential for many individual and societal reasons.
  • The new Health Insurance Marketplace provides an opportunity for individuals to purchase health insurance on a more “level playing field” than in the past.
  • Through the Marketplace individuals could receive financial assistance to purchase coverage.
  • The Marketplace will screen individuals for public and private health insurance options and financial assistance to purchase insurance.
  • Individuals with behavioral health needs (mental health and substance use challenges) will have an increased opportunity to access services due to the Affordable Care Act’s provisions.
  • Expanding Medicaid in Pennsylvania is a “no brainer” and will be a huge missed opportunity if the state administration does not act soon.
  • Healthcare.gov, localhelp.healthcare.gov, and 1-800-318-2596 are valuable resources for individuals to learn more about their options and places to get in-person assistance.

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Uncategorized

Can Legal Care Improve Infant Mortality? Incorporating Medical-Legal Partnership in Healthy Start Programs

Can Legal Care Improve Infant Mortality? Incorporating Medical-Legal Partnership in Healthy Start Programs

An article attorney Dan Atkins and I wrote for the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership on the impact of medical-legal partnerships in Healthy Start programs. 

Uncategorized

Thoughts on Governor Corbett’s coming announcement re: Medicaid expansion in Pennsylvania

Public health advocates in Pennsylvania have been working tirelessly to influence Governor Corbett to “opt in” to Medicaid expansion since the U.S. Supreme Court made its surprising decision on June 28, 2012 regarding the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  The Governor’s office has leaked to the press that tomorrow we will get the news we have been waiting for during a big announcement the Governor is set to deliver.  One would think that advocates should welcome this news; however instead of celebrating, many of us are gearing up for our next challenge: explaining to the public and the legislature why we will not support Governor Corbett’s Medicaid expansion proposal.

For months Governor Corbett adamantly opposed expanding Medicaid eligibility citing misleading financial analyses, over reliance on the Medicaid program, and unsubstantiated fears that the federal government will “break its promise” regarding the 100% federal matching rate for the program for years 2014, 2015, and 2016.  More recently, as the Governor’s political popularity continues to dwindle, he has moved from adamantly opposing expansion to considering options within expansion.  Based on recent statements by the Governor, the Pennsylvania Department of Welfare Secretary, Beverly Mackereth, and the Insurance Commissioner, Michael Consedine, it is very likely that the Governor’s proposal will be similar to those of Arkansas and Iowa.  Governor Corbett favors privatization and it is likely he will propose expanding Medicaid eligibility for individuals, but instead of enrolling them into the traditional Medicaid program, the newly eligible individuals will be enrolled into the private health insurance plans on the Marketplace. In addition to this, the Governor will likely request a waiver from moving children in households with incomes up to 138% of the federal poverty level from CHIP into the Medicaid program; a provision of the ACA to which the Governor has expressed great opposition.  Other items the Governor might propose as part of the Medicaid expansion in Pennsylvania could include work requirements and increased co-payments for services. With the maintenance of effort requirement of the ACA expiring at the end of the year, advocates also fear Governor Corbett’s expansion plan will unfortunately come with a reduction in the current Medicaid benefit, negatively impacting our most vulnerable residents.

Governor Corbett is making the issue of Medicaid expansion in Pennsylvania needlessly complex in order to satisfy both a Republican base and to improve his popularity overall.  In doing so, the Governor will continue to delay the opportunity for approximately 600,000 residents to get comprehensive health coverage.  Some of the messages we need to get across are clear: (1) The current Medicaid program in Pennsylvania is efficient and works to provide comprehensive coverage to those who need it most; and (2) Pennsylvania residents will pay for Medicaid expansion through income tax regardless of whether we expand or not.  The government should expand in a way that provides the best services to individuals, not the highest profits for corporations.

 

Uncategorized

Corbett’s Health Insurance Exchange Decision

Corbett’s Health Insurance Exchange Decision

Pennsylvania Governor, Tom Corbett, announced on December 12th that the Commonwealth will not be establishing its own Health Insurance Exchange. To most of us, this came as no surprise. Here’s the link to the Governor’s statement along with his letter to Secretary Sebelius. Within his letter, the Governor states his financial concerns of expanding Medicaid eligibility within the state. He cites to a $4 billion cost to the state over an eight year period. At this time the Governor has not decided whether Pennsylvania will expand Medicaid eligibility or not. 

Uncategorized

Regulations posted today on Federal Register

title=”Regulations posted today on Federal Register”>Regulations posted today on Federal Register

Today regulations have been posted by the Health and Human Services Department providing guidance on the Essential Health Benefits, Health Insurance Exchange and other provisions of the the Affordable Care Act.