Funding for PA’s state-subsidized health plan

    Time’s running on out the agreement that keeps Pennsylvania’s AdultBasic afloat. It offers the working poor health insurance for less than $40 a month.

    Time’s running on out the agreement that keeps Pennsylvania’s AdultBasic afloat. It offers the working poor health insurance for less than $40 a month.

    More than half of the funding for the state-subsidized AdultBasic health program comes from a deal between Pennsylvania and the state’s four Blues-branded health insurance companies.

    That voluntary agreement — and the funding — run out at the end of this year. House Majority Leader Todd Eachus wants to keep that money flowing by charging a 2.4 percent assessment on some of the health plans sold by Philadelphia’s Independence Blue Cross and the other Blues companies.

    Eachus: Right now we can use the AdultBasic program as a bridge between 2010 and 2014 when the permanent health insurance comes in from the federal law that was passed in Washington.

    A spokesman for Highmark Inc., the Blues company in Central Pennsylvania, says that company has no interest in re-negotiating a permanent extension of the current agreement.

    Elizabeth Williams is Vice President of Corporate and Public Affairs for Independence Blue Cross.

    Williams: We agree that the problem of addressing the uninsured is critically important to the well being of our state, but IBC and PA’s other three Blue insurers can no longer be the sole source of revenue for the state for AdultBasic as we have been for the last six years. Our state government and all the stakeholders in health care in Pennsylvania — plus the federal government given the recent enactment of the reform law — must address this responsibility together. It can not be addressed by Pennsylvania’s four Blue plans alone.

    The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center is backing the bill to tax the non-profit Blues companies and make sure their contributions keep flowing until the federal health insurance laws kick in.

    Sharon Ward leads the left-leaning policy center and says the bill from House Majority Leader Todd Eachus is a good idea.

    Ward: The representative’s bill would put in law a funding source similar to the one that has already been in place, but instead of it being voluntary it would be in statue, a stable funding source. The people who are receiving AdultBasic could have some peace of mind that their health insurance won’t disappear on them.

    About 40,000 low-income and hard-to-insure people get health coverage through AdultBasic.

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