Pa. wraps up hearings on plan to change Medicaid

    Pennsylvania’s Department of Public Welfare has concluded a series of public hearings on its proposal to overhaul the state’s Medicaid program.

    The “Healthy PA” plan would include a new private insurance option for Pennsylvanians making up to 133 percent of the federal poverty line, according to state officials.

    It would use federal funds to extend a private insurance option to roughly 500,000 low-income, uninsured Pennsylvania adults — the same population that would be eligible under the Medicaid expansion envisioned in the federal Affordable Care Act.

    Public comments collected during the seven statewide hearings on the plan will be used to make changes to the Medicaid waiver, said Bev Mackereth, secretary of the department.

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    State Rep. Gene DiGirolamo, R-Bucks, suggested the state should accept federal Medicaid expansion dollars now, while it continues to negotiate an alternative plan with the federal government.

    Mackereth doesn’t have a timetable moving forward, but she said her agency will move quickly to submit the plan to the federal Department of Health and Human Services.

    As in previous hearings, a proposed new work search requirement for adults in the Medicaid program was roundly criticized Thursday in Harrisburg.

    AARP spokesman Ray Landis, whose group speaks for 1.8 million older Pennsylvanians, objected to proposed premiums and a job-search requirement.

    Landis, who said the work-search requirement is inappropriate for determining health-care eligibility, said  that provision, as well as the proposed premiums for coverage, represent barriers to enrollment in the program.

    Mackereth disagreed, saying it will provide the tools to help eligible recipients become gainfully employed.

    Tha Associated Press contributed to this report.

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