Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial primary is Tuesday. In recent weeks, our beat reporters have been taking a look at what sets each of the four Democratic candidates apart on some of the issues they cover.
WHYY’s Jennifer Lynn spoke with Health and Science Desk reporter Elana Gordon about what candidates businessman Tom Wolf, State Treasurer Rob McCord, former Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Katie McGinty, and U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz are saying about the future of Obamacare and expanding Medicaid, the government insurance program for the poor.
The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) has been one of those hot button issues in state politics. It’s certainly making a showing in this primary. The Democratic candidates have been all over it — trying to one-up each other to express support for the law.
States have an important role in how Obamacare plays out, especially when it comes to expanding Medicaid. In 2012 the U.S. Supreme Court gave states the option to expand Medicaid eligibility. The law originally required it.
Medicaid is a state health care program, run in partnership with the federal government. It covers about one in five Pennsylvanians, mainly low-income parents, kids, seniors and people with disabilities or special health needs. Generally speaking in Pennsylvania, the income eligibility level for adults without kids is very low, somewhere around $5,500 a year, barring other exceptions. An expansion would make someone earning up to about $15,000 a year eligible, even if they don’t have kids.
While all the Democrats support an expansion, Gov. Tom Corbett has an alternative proposal to serve the same population through subsidizing private insurance coverage. Unlike traditional Medicaid, his Healthy PA plan would require some monthly payment from enrollees. He’s currently negotiating with the federal government over this to win approval from Washington.
What do the Democratic candidates think of his plan?
Katie McGinty say the governor’s plan amounts to a voucherizing of Medicaid, “And what that means is there will be fewer people covered. It will cost more and the coverage will be less effective, that’s not the direction we want to go.”
Rob McCord has gone as far as to calle the governor’s offering, “immoral and inefficient.”
Allyson Schwartz says the plan submitted to by Gov. Corbett creates obstacles, “It reduces benefits, and it hurts people who are on Medicaid or should be.”
Tom Wolf opposes it too.
If approved, the Corbett plan would take effect in January 2015. WHYY reached out to the Democratic candidates’ offices and each said they would scrap it and go with a traditional expansion instead.
For more of Elana Gordon’s coverage of the state of Medicaid in Pennsylvania:
How will the Affordable Care Act affect Medicaid in Pa., N.J. and Del.?
Corbett talks up plan to expand Medicaid his way
Pa. officially seeks federal approval of Medicaid plan
What’s Next For Pennsylvania’s Medicaid Expansion?