There are currently 9 State Representatives in Berks County; 7 Republicans and 2 Democrats. Indivisible has them conveniently listed here under "Meet Our State Reps". Take a look. You won’t want to forget these names and faces.
Last Tuesday afternoon in a last minute 102 – 91 vote divided mostly along party lines, the PA House passed on to the Senate a bill that would drastically change PA’s Medicaid program. 7 of our state reps voted in favor of the bill; 2 voted against it. I’ll leave it to you to divine the breakdown.
The vote came less than 24 hours after Republicans in the House Rules Committee amended the bill to include drastic alterations such as requiring the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services to pursue a federal waiver of Medicaid rules to impose work requirements on the program.
The Pennsylvania Health Access Network, which strongly opposes House Bill 59, called it “a sneak attack on our healthcare” and a “bad deal for Pennsylvania.” PHAN said in a statement, “This bill makes hard-working people jump through additional layers of red tape. People will get stuck in paper chases or processing errors that will negate all their hard work by cutting them off from the care they need. Working Pennsylvanians deserve better.”
The major problem with the bill is that it is based on a fallacy-that those receiving Medicaid aren’t working and are abusing the system. In fact, according to the non-profit Kaiser Family Foundation, 72 percent of non-elderly Pennsylvania adults in Medicaid are in working families, and 55 percent are working themselves, with common reasons for not working being illness or disability, going to school, taking care of home or family or inability to find work. Furthermore, of the Medicaid expansion population, 43 percent were working either full time or part time, as indicated in a report from the PA's Department of Human Services. That same report showed that in the first year of the expansion, about 45 percent used it to receive at least one preventive service, about 5 percent had a diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes, and about 11 percent had a substance abuse disorder.
What are the objections to work requirements or premiums for Medicaid? Marc Stier of Third and State outlines four of them:
Beyond the work requirements, the bill, sponsored by Republican Rep. Dan Moul of Adams County, would also establish a “lock-in” program. Such programs enable states to restrict some patients to a single designated provider, pharmacy or both in effort to “rein in a Medicaid patient’s overuse, and possible abuse, of physician services and prescription drugs,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The legislation would add a premium for disabled children whose families receive income 1,000 percent above the federal poverty level.
It’s important to note that no other states have a work requirement for Medicaid. “The federal government has never allowed a state to condition Medicaid eligibility on work,” said Mary Beth Musumeci, associate director at the Kaiser Family Foundation’s program on Medicaid and the Uninsured. “The rationale was that Medicaid is a health program as opposed to a work program,” Musumeci added. But there are rumblings at the federal level, and it’s possible the current administration would allow such work stipulations in the future.
Governor Wolf opposes the legislation. This statement was released by his spokesperson on July 11th:
“Governor Wolf strongly opposes these backdoor changes to Medicaid that could have widespread and potentially life-changing effects on the health and well-being of millions of Pennsylvanians. Seniors, people with disabilities and low-income working families don’t need their lives to be made even more difficult by politicians in Harrisburg.
Beyond the substance of these changes, the process flies in the face of good government and these changes would cost millions of taxpayer dollars just to implement. There was no input from stakeholders or families that would be affected and no formal fiscal analysis. Medicaid is not a handout — it is a lifeline. We need to support these families, not create more hoops for them to jump through.”
Remember those State Reps? They're all up for re-election in 2018. As for this bill, it now moves to the State Senate. Conveniently, Indivisible also has this page: "Meet Our State Senators". Now might be a good time to update your phone’s contact list!
posted by Amy Levengood