Interest in Medicaid expansion revives in Pa., then quickly hits wall

    A state House committee voted 12-11 Wednesday to approve a measure forcing a Medicaid expansion in Pennsylvania.

    Some tried to send the bill to another panel. Another tried to adjourn before taking a vote. But Republicans on the House Human Services Committee didn’t have the majority they can usually rely on to jettison bills at the top of Democrats’ agenda.

    Three GOP representatives joined with the Democratic minority on the panel to send the Medicaid expansion bill to the full House.

    It will not go any further, promised Steve Miskin, speaking on behalf of the House speaker and majority leader.

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    The moderate-to-liberal Republican Rep. Gene DiGirolamo, R-Bucks, appeared unfazed. As chairman of the Human Services Committee, he introduced the expansion bill.

    “I think the support is there in the House if we can get a vote,” DiGirolamo said.

    Wednesday did not mark the first time DiGirolamo has been at odds with caucus leadership. He’s proposed his own state spending plans and excoriated the governor’s human services budgets.

    The Health Committee was created in 2010 – an easy work-around, some Republicans have said, so leadership can get health-related bills to the floor without relying on DiGirolamo’s panel.

    But the Bucks County maverick was optimistic after the vote. He pointed to the Senate, which passed Medicaid expansion last year, only to have the language promptly stripped out by the House.

    The governor has proposed an alternative to Medicaid expansion that would use federal funds to subsidize private insurance for the poor.

    Rep. Matt Baker, R-Tioga, said House GOP leaders prefer to see how negotiations between the state and federal government fare on that.

    “They would like to support the governor in his efforts to provide half a million more people with health insurance through the private option,” Baker said, “rather than through welfare expansion.”

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