Expanding PA's AdultBasic health insurance program

    State House want to enroll 86,000 more people in Pennsylvania’s low-cost insurance program.

    About 46,000 people purchase low-cost health insurance through Pennsylvania’s AdultBasic program. In February, Governor Rendell said he hoped to double that number. Now state House Democrats say they’ve mapped out a plan to pay for 86,000 extra people.

    Listen:
    [audio:090526tebasic.mp3]

    The bill from House Majority Leader Todd Eachus upgrades the AdultBasic plan by adding prescription drug coverage and mental health services. That change could qualify the program for federal funding. Eachus spokesman Brett Marcy says Pennsylvanians need the state-supported program.

    Marcy: The waiting list for the AdultBasic program is over 200,000 and we want to bring that waiting list down as much as we possibly can.

    Democrats say they can expand the program in the coming fiscal year without new taxes. The bill would draw surplus dollars from a fund used to retain healthcare workers in the state and changes to the state’s unclaimed property law.

    Matthew Brouillette is the head of the conservative Commonwealth Foundation. He wants lawmakers to give consumers more choices in the private health insurance market.

    The state legislature would have to tap several new revenue sources to make the plan work.

    Marcy: This is kind of a creative approach to solving a problem that exists in this state, and yet at the same time does not burden the tax payers with additional taxes.

    Brouillette says government health programs are faltering, and an AdultBasic expansion is the wrong approach.

    Brouillette: It’s going to be far more expensive through this route of expanding government control and provision of government healthcare than if we start to work on the real issues in the private health insurance arena.

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