Governor Tom Corbett’s Healthy Pennsylvania plan received federal approval this week meaning as many as 600,000 more Pennsylvanians will be able to access quality, affordable health care through the private insurance market. The plan is being described as an innovative way to use the funding for Medicaid expansion allocated through the Affordable Care Act to cover more uninsured people.
In a statement issued on August 29, the Pennsylvania Catholic Health Association (PCHA) and the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference (PCC) applauded the federal approval of Corbett’s Healthy Pennsylvania as one more step toward affording access to health care for all persons. “Catholic sponsored health care facilities have a special mission to serve the economically poor,” it states. “Thousands of Pennsylvanians are uninsured, compounding the negative impact of economic hard times. Healthy PA will help many Pennsylvanians overcome one of the most significant obstacles in breaking the cycle of poverty.”
The new Healthy PA program has several unique components that are different from traditional Medicaid. It aligns the government program with private, commercial health insurance plans to better tailor health care benefits to the needs of the different populations served in the program. This includes essential health benefits and meets standards for mental health and drug and alcohol coverage.
The program also encourages employment by offering assistance for low-income, able bodied Pennsylvanians to improve their overall health and well-being and move out of poverty.
Individuals enrolled in the program will participate in cost sharing to encourage personal responsibility. In Year One, eligible individuals will pay the same Medicaid copayments that exist today. In Year Two, participants with incomes greater than 100 percent of the federal poverty level will be required to pay two percent of their income toward a monthly premium. Enrollment for individuals who do not pay premiums in a timely manner will be revoked. However, there will be generous incentives for participants to reduce their cost-sharing obligations by engaging in certain healthy behaviors. For example, job training and certain work related activities will result in lower premiums. Participants will be assigned a Healthy PA career coach to help them navigate their options and take advantage of the opportunities to improve their lives.
Every person, including the poor and vulnerable, has a right to adequate health care, a right that flows from the sanctity of life and human dignity. Catholic health care facilities in Pennsylvania serve a high percentage of Medicaid qualified patients; serving the poor is a hallmark of Catholic healthcare. PCHA and PCC acknowledge that resources are limited and further reform to the Medicaid program is necessary for financial stability. Using the funding made available by the Affordable Care Act to subsidize the purchase of private insurance for low-income people will also ensure that thousands of additional citizens will be able to access the health care they need now.
Enrollment for Healthy PA is expected to begin December 1, 2014.