(Recasts with agreement, adds comments, details; minor changes
By Hilary Russ and David Morgan
Aug 28 Federal officials have reached an
agreement with Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett over his plan to
use federal funds to pay for private health insurance coverage
for up to 600,000 residents, the governor said on Thursday.
The deal highlights a growing number of Republican governors
who are finding ways to accept money under President Barack
Obama's Affordable Care Act, despite political opposition that
has so far prevented nearly half of U.S. states from moving
forward with the Medicaid expansion plan.
Corbett sought a waiver in February to use those expansion
funds to instead subsidize private health insurance for
Medicaid expansion under Obamacare has become a tool for
political jockeying, with many Republicans loathe to support it.
In Pennsylvania, the dispute is partly semantic.
Corbett, who is lagging in the polls in his bid for
re-election this fall, said his plan, Healthy Pennsylvania, is
not expansion under so-called Obamacare.
The governor "has been clear that he would not expand
Medicaid because it is an unsustainable entitlement program," a
statement from his office said on Thursday.
However, federal officials said the approval made
Pennsylvania the 27th state to expand Medicaid under Obamacare.
Federal health officials are "committed to supporting state
flexibility and working with states on innovative solutions that
work within the confines of the law to expand Medicaid to
low-income individuals," said Centers for Medicare & Medicaid
Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner in a statement.
Republican governors in Ohio, Michigan and Iowa have already
extended health coverage to poor constituents with Medicaid
funding under Obamacare. Indiana and Utah are actively
negotiating for new plans with the administration.
"The politics in these states are tough. You can't simply do
the Medicaid expansion as is and expect public support," said
Benjamin Sommers, a Medicaid expert at the Harvard School of
Health reform advocates predicted that further expansions in
Republican-led states will follow Pennsylvania's lead by playing
down the role of Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act in their
Federal officials did not approve a controversial
Pennsylvania provision that would have required active job
searches in order for the unemployed to receive coverage. But a
voluntary job training program that reduces premium costs for
participants was allowed.
The approved program will also reduce 14 current Medicaid
plans to two benefit packages, one for low-risk residents and
another for high risk.
Enrollment begins Dec. 1, with coverage to go into effect
Jan. 1. Those earning 133 percent of the federal poverty level
qualify, though the effective level is 138 percent, or $32,913
for a family of four.
About 6.4 million Americans who live below the poverty line
are expected to remain uninsured in the 23 states that have not
(Reporting by Hilary Russ in New York and David Morgan in
Washington; Editing by Diane Craft)