Long waits for PA’s low-cost health plan

    Nearly 300,000 people waiting to take advantage of the AdultBasic health plan.

    Pennsylvania’s state-sponsored health plan is called AdultBasic. It’s helping more than 44,000 Pennsylvanians buy low-cost insurance. But there are almost 300,000 people waiting to take advantage of the plan, and state officials say no one has moved off the wait list since March.

    Listen: [audio: 090818tebasic.mp3]

    The number of people on the waiting list jumped from slightly more than 100,000 a year ago to more than 288,000 today.

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    Insurance Commissioner Joel Ario blames the rocky economy and job layoffs that leave people without access to work-sponsored plans.

    Meanwhile, Pennsylvania hasn’t reimbursed health insurance companies that participate in the plan since July 1st. That’s when the state budget impasse began. For now the insurance carriers are keeping up their payments to doctors, but Ario says that can’t last forever.

    So at some point in here, and I think the breaking point probably is sometime in September, they are going to start coming to us and saying: ‘We need to get paid if you expect us to keep paying the doctors.’

    Pennsylvanians can now expect a two-year wait before joining AdultBasic.

    Berry Friesen is a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Health Access Network. His group wants lawmakers to spend more on the program to expand enrollment. Friesen says that expansion can’t wait for a national health system overhaul.

    The federal reform, if it were to be adopted by Congress, would be implemented in three to four years. So we certainly need state relief in the meantime because more and more people are losing their coverage and going on the waiting list for AdultBasic.

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