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Republican Governor About To Lose Medicaid Fight In Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Republican Tom Corbett seems likely to lose his seat as governor, and with it a fight against Medicaid expansion.

Gov. Corbett has said he opposes Medicaid expansion in Pennsylvania, arguing it’s an unsustainable program that already takes up 29 percent of the state’s budget. He opted along with 20 other states not to accept federal money to expand Medicaid as part of the Affordable Care Act. (RELATED: Medicaid Expansion Battle Rages In Five Remaining States)

But in the face of political pressure to expand coverage, Corbett spent a year working out a deal with federal regulators to indirectly expand health care coverage for poor people by subsidizing private plans with the federal money. Rather than enroll in Medicaid, uninsured people with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level would use the money to enroll in a private plan.

His plan also reforms Medicaid, dividing the insured into high-risk and low-risk pools, and introducing monthly premiums for some.

Regulators approved Gov. Corbett’s “Healthy Pennsylvania” plan in August, and about 600,000 currently uninsured people will be eligible for coverage when the plan takes effect Jan. 1. Corbett called approval of his plan “historic” and his administration claims it will save taxpayers $4.5 billion over the next 8 years.

“The Healthy Pennsylvania plan supports independence for all Pennsylvanians, utilizes the private health care market, and increases health care choices for consumers – all without expanding an entitlement program,”  Corbett said in a statement. “This is truly a Pennsylvania solution.”

But Gov. Corbett is likely to lose his seat in the upcoming November elections. Polls have consistently shown him 15-plus points behind his Democratic challenger, Tom Wolf, who has said he will abandon Corbett’s plan and simply expand Medicaid.

Enrollment in Gov. Corbett’s plan begins Dec. 1, but this week the state’s largest health insurer, Highmark Inc., announced it will not participate in the plan, because it wasn’t able to sign enough doctors on to its network, reported the Pittsburgh Tribune. Another insurer, UPMC Health Plan, is considering reducing its participation in the plan, because it’s too costly.

Sharon Ward, executive director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, told The Daily Caller News Foundation it remains to be seen exactly how those insured through Gov. Corbett’s plan would be affected by a transition to a traditional expansion of Medicaid under Wolf.

In September, Pennsylvania’s credit rating was downgraded for the fifth time in two years — this time by Standard & Poors — because of rising pension costs coupled with low revenue.

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