Dems make another push for PA Medicaid expansion

By Eric Boehm | PA Independent

Democratic lawmakers are again looking for a way to pressure Gov. Tom Corbett and majority Republicans into accepting the Medicaid expansion portion of the Affordable Care Act.

State Rep. Pam DeLissio, D-Philadelphia, said Wednesday she plans to file a resolution that could be used to force the state House to vote on Medicaid expansion. The so-called “discharge resolution” can be used by members to force a full chamber vote on a bill languishing in committee.

DELISSIO: State Rep. Pam DeLissio, D-Philadelphia, plans to file a discharge resolution to force a vote on Medicaid expansion in the state House.

In this case, DeLissio wants a vote on House Bill 897, sponsored by state Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny, which would accept federal money for Medicaid expansion in Pennsylvania.

“Twenty-five states have seen the fiscal and moral sense of expanding their Medicaid programs,” said DeLissio in a statement.

Without a majority in either chamber, Democrats won’t be able to do much to force Republican leaders’ hands on the expansion — discharge resolutions can be dismissed or dodged with a variety of parliamentary maneuvers by the majority — but it’s another piece on the board as lawmakers enter budget season in Harrisburg.

But in a tough budget year, in which the state is facing a $600 million deficit, more members might welcome the promise of extra federal cash through Medicaid.

Under the provisions of the expansion, the federal government will pay 100 percent of the cost for all new enrollees over the first three years, with declining payments after that. Democrats say the state could save $320 million next year by accepting the expansion.

Delissio said Pennsylvania has lost out on $7 million per day since Jan. 1.

But many Republicans worry about the long-term costs of expanding the Medicaid rolls and question whether the federal government will be able to meet its funding obligations.

A similar tactic was tried, unsuccessfully, by members of the state Senate last year.

Democrats in the Senate were able to get enough Republican support to include provisional Medicaid expansion language in an important budget bill, but the House stripped it. Facing opposition from the House and Corbett, the Senate agreed to keep the language out of the final version of the bill.

Corbett still opposes Medicaid expansion. His administration has spent more than a year negotiating with the federal government in an effort to develop an alternative program, known as Healthy PA, to cover an estimated 520,000 Pennsylvanians who have no insurance and do not qualify for the Obamacare exchanges.

It’s been nearly two years since the Supreme Court ruled in June 2012 that states had to opt-in to the provisions in the ACA that expanded Medicaid coverage for all residents earning less than 133 percent of the federal poverty level — about $31,600 for a family of four.

Boehm is a reporter for PA Independent and can be reached at Eric@PAIndependent.com. Follow @PAIndependent on Twitter for more.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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