The federal government is giving bonus funds to 23 states for enrolling more kids in the health-care program Medicaid last fiscal year.
Pennsylvania is not among the winners. More than 60,000 children in the state disappeared from the Medicaid rolls between October 2011 and 2012.
To get the bonus, states must also meet criteria aimed at simplifying enrollment procedures for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP.
Anne Bale, spokeswoman for the state’s Department of Public Welfare, says the state is “very close” to meeting all those criteria.
She argues that fewer children are now enrolled in Medicaid because the economy is improving.
“Those numbers will go down a little bit because people are starting to get jobs,” she says. “They can now have their own coverage.”
Colleen McCauley, health policy director for Public Citizens for Children and Youth, sees things differently. She says many kids were wrongly booted from Medicaid over the past year.
“We believe that the reduction of kids on Pennsylvania’s Medicaid and CHIP programs over the last year and a half is, in part, a callous disregard on behalf of the Corbett administration,” she says. “We believe that the governor may be sacrificing children to make a political point.”
Bale admits that some children were accidentally kicked off Medicaid. But she says they were quickly restored.
The federal government has given out bonuses for the last four years. The recent awards range from $1.5 million to $43 million for each state. Pennsylvania has never gotten a bonus, though nearby states including Maryland and New Jersey have.
If Pennsylvania had won the bonus, Bale estimates it would have totalled about $2 million. Children’s advocates argue that Pennsylvania could reap much more, given that New Jersey is getting $22 million for last fiscal year.