Pennsylvania candidates mull options for AdultBasic

    Pennsylvania has a health plan that provides insurance to low-income people for less than $40 a month. But the agreement that funds most of the AdultBasic program is set to expire at the end of the year.

    WHYY asked Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial candidates to weigh-in on the future of AdultBasic.

    All the Democratic candidates say Pennsylvania needs to keep AdultBasic going until 2014. That’s when the federal health law offers more insurance options for the working poor.

    Independence Blue Cross and the state’s three other Blues-branded insurance companies have funded the program for nearly six years, but they’re not interested in a multi-year extension.

    Lawmakers are debating a new tax that would force the Blues companies to keep funding AdultBasic.

    Democrat Joe Hoeffel is the commissioner of Montgomery County.

    Hoeffel: I’m sure that would be controversial, but it’d be something I’d consider as well. I don’t want to see this program go away. This is exactly the sort of thing that government ought to be doing.

    In the Republican race, Berks County state representative Sam Rohrer says AdultBasic was never a very good solution. He’s against the plan to tax the Blues companies.

    Rohrer: When government steps in and says you will do something we tell you to do or else we’re going to levy a tax on you, you end up getting less of what you are actually wanting, so it’s the backward way of trying to fix this issue.

    Meanwhile Democrat Dan Onorato says Pennsylvania has the pull to persuade the insurers to renew.

    Onorato: An extension of an existing six-year deal, for three years just to get us through the federal limitations, I think the Blues will be in a condition to do that, knowing that it does come to an end in 2014.

    Onorato is the Allegheny County executive and says rising health costs are a huge threat to the middle class and small business.

    Democrat State Auditor General Jack Wagner says AdultBasic is worth saving and managing health plans better could help subsidize coverage.

    Wagner: To make sure that people’s incomes are appropriate, to know their family status, to know their eligibility as an American citizen, to save tax payer dollars and most importantly to make sure those in need are properly served.

    Philadelphia Democrat, state Senator Anthony Williams also wants to keep AdultBasic afloat but declined to endorse or reject the tax idea.

    State Attorney General Republican Tom Corbett’s campaign did not respond in time for this story.

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