DiGirolamo Seeks to Expand Medicaid in Pennsylvania

Bucks lawmaker pens bill to allow PA to participate in federal program

HARRISBURG – Seeking to provide health care coverage to more than 400,000 citizens of Pennsylvania, Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R-Bucks) introduced legislation in the state House today that would allow Pennsylvania to participate in the federal Medicaid expansion program under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

“The lack of health care across this state causes people to get sicker or families to be poorer,” said DiGirolamo, who serves as chairman of the House Human Services Committee. “We have all heard the reports or have witnessed firsthand people who don’t see a doctor because they don’t have insurance or who struggle financially because of medical bills. By expanding Medicaid, we have a real chance to help the uninsured and the underinsured get the care they need and deserve for healthier lives.”

A key provision of the Affordable Care Act is expansion of eligibility for Medicaid benefits to individuals with incomes of about $15,000 and families of four with incomes of about $30,000. Many, if not most, of the new enrollees will be working people with jobs that do not provide health care coverage, the lawmaker noted.

According to estimates from Pennsylvania’s Independent Fiscal Office, the Medicaid expansion will provide Pennsylvania with $17 billion to $19 billion in federal funds over five years or $34 billion to $38 billion over 10 years. The federal government will pay for 100 percent of the cost of new enrollees for the first three years -- 2014, 2015 and 2016. After that, federal funds reduce gradually, until they remain at 90 percent, starting in 2020.

DiGirolamo also noted the economic benefits of participation. A report by Rand Corporation projects that through the Medicaid expansion, Pennsylvania will gain 35,000 to 39,000 tax-generating new jobs.

 “This huge infusion of funding will lead to job growth in health care and related industries, increased tax revenues based on these federal dollars and will improve the health of working people who have no health care coverage,” he said. “New enrollees will also be more likely to receive preventative care and seek help before expensive emergency treatments are needed. If not covered by this expansion, many of these working people will end up in hospital emergency rooms, which we will all pay for in some way.”

Failure to opt into the Medicaid Expansion will also put our hospitals in jeopardy. Because of the ACA’s expansion of eligibility for Medicaid to thousands of new enrollees, hospitals accepted reductions in uncompensated care payments provided by the federal government.

“Pennsylvania is at a crossroads when it comes to expanding Medicaid in our Commonwealth, and I understand and greatly appreciate the fact that there are legitimate concerns about the long-term impact of the expansion,” DiGirolamo said. “That is why my legislation includes protections for Pennsylvania including the ability to drop the program if the federal commitment to reimbursement is not maintained.”

Under the legislation, Pennsylvania could also end the program if the state’s Gross Receipts Tax is disapproved by the federal government.  Pennsylvania currently levies a 5.9 percent gross receipts tax on all Medicaid managed care plans. In addition, the Department of Public Welfare would be able to institute cost offsetting mechanisms in the fourth year such as premiums, deductibles and copayments. 
House Bill 1492 is awaiting referral to a House standing committee for consideration.

In addition, DiGirolamo will convene a public hearing of the House Human Services Committee on Thursday to learn more about Medicaid expansion. That hearing will begin at 9 a.m. in Room 60 of the East Wing of the Capitol Complex in Harrisburg. It will also be streamed live on his website at www.GeneDiGirolamo.com.

Representative Gene DiGirolamo
18th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact:  Jennifer Keaton
GeneDiGirolamo.com / Facebook.com/GeneDiGirolamo