Pennsylvania Governor Corbett’s Medicaid Waiver Evokes Lots of Concern!

Governor Corbett’s “Healthy PA” waiver proposal includes a request for 24 waivers of federal law – a record among recent similar Medicaid waiver requests. Perhaps as a result, a significant number of national and state stakeholders and policy analysts submitted comments to the federal government on the waiver request – the public comment period closed at 6 a.m. today.

Georgetown University Center for Children and Families worked with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities to develop a comment letter signed by 35 national and state groups, including AFSCME, Community Catalyst, Easter Seals, March of Dimes, Mental Health America and the National Women’s Law Center, which highlighted concerns about the state’s plans. Issues noted were concerns about Governor Corbett’s work search proposals, punitive premium policies, cuts in benefits, and vague desire to use “private coverage” without a clear rationale.

A similar letter with special emphasis on issues affecting children and vulnerable youth aging out of foster care was developed by Georgetown CCF and First Focus and signed by 40 groups from around the country. The letter highlights many of the same issues but also points out that the administrative burdens and red tape that would be necessitated by the Governor’s approach would likely result in burdens of administrative staff that would result in children losing coverage because caseworkers were unable to process their applications. The letter notes that in 2011 nearly 90,000 children lost Medicaid coverage in Pennsylvania when county assistance casework staff was overloaded.

And just because we are so into Medicaid waivers around here, we developed some more in-depth comments with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

While it’s good news that the state wants to accept federal Medicaid dollars, the plan would waste scarce taxpayer dollars by setting up more bureaucratic hurdles and red tape.  That money should be used for covering kids and families, not chasing a paperwork trail or trying to turn Medicaid into a job-training program.  Lets hope the Governor is really interested in moving forward and comes to a reasonable place during the ongoing negotiations with the federal government.

Joan Alker is the Executive Director of the Center for Children and Families and a Research Professor at the Georgetown McCourt School of Public Policy.