Corbett looks to state programs to trim Pa. health spending

    After Gov. Tom Corbett laid out his budget plans Tuesday, the head of Pennsylvania’s Department of Welfare reiterated concerns about the rising cost of providing health care to poor and disabled residents and the critical need to slow spending.

     

    Most of Pennsylvania’s government health-care dollars go to the jointly funded state-and-federal Medicaid program, but the federal Affordable Care Act largely prevents Pennsylvania from making major changes or cuts to Medicaid eligibility.

    Observers say that means Corbett cost-cutters are looking to state-funded program for savings. The budget plan the governor presented includes trims to state-funded Medical Assistance.

    That program provides health care to a small segment of poor people living through special — often temporary — circumstances, such as short-term disability, drug treatment or domestic violence.

    “Pennsylvania has stepped in and paid 100 percent of the cost of covering some additional pockets of people,” said attorney Kristen Damas with Community Legal Services.

    She says Pennsylvania is curbing its generosity.

    “The $159 million in cuts to state-funded Medical Assistance isn’t an elimination of the program … it is an effort to tighten the eligibility rules,” Damas said. “That program isn’t protected by federal law in the same way that federal Medicaid is.”

    A Department of Welfare spokeswoman says there may be a change in the qualifying health conditions allowed or the medications covered for state-funded Medical Assistance.

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